Yevgeny Prigozhin used to be considered “Putin’s cook” and founded the violent mercenary group “Group Wagner”. Now the influential Kremlin ally is apparently planning a political career.
For years, Yevgeny Prigozhin acted in the background while terrible reports were made about his mercenaries of the “Wagner Group”. The fighters have been deployed by Russia for years when the Kremlin is getting too dirty for the regular soldiers. And they have already shown their cruelty in the Ukraine war. A video appeared last week that is supposed to show the brutal murder of an alleged Wagner deserter. For a few weeks now, Yevgeny Prigozhin has been appearing more and more in public. He not only wants to find more volunteers for the frontline, but apparently also has political goals.
Last week Prigozhin, who also recruits his mercenaries from prison, compared the hired prisoners to the Russian oligarchs. They are clearly “more conscientious” than any elite. Likewise, many of the inmates just had “bad luck in life” and would now join the “Wagner Group” for this reason, Prigoschin said on his press portal.
It is not the first time that Prigozhin has railed against Russia’s elite: “There are traitors who drop their machine guns and defect to the enemy. They betray their own people and motherland – but they are not the only ones. Some of these traitors sit in their offices and don’t give their people a thought.”
The Kremlin-critical portal Meduza is now reporting that there could be a long-term goal behind Prigozhin’s provocations. According to the Meduza sources, Prigozhin is planning a political movement that could even lead to the emergence of a new party. As early as 2021, Prigozhin tried to take over the nationalist Rodina party in parliament. However, his plan failed because Putin did not want to invest any more resources in Rodina.
In this context, Meduza’s Kremlin insiders also report that Prigozhin was in close contact with Putin. He was “able at any time to reach the President”. So it is by no means the case that Prigozhin wants to oppose Putin. Prigishin’s plans might even find favor in the Kremlin.
Meduza assumes that Prigozhin’s movement would rely primarily on ruthless patriotism. This includes continuous criticism of bureaucrats and corruption. Prigozhin takes the example of regime opponent Alexei Navalny, of all people. Navalny and his supporters had caused a stir in oligarch circles by uncovering corruption scandals.
“Prigozhin understands and learns quickly. He can establish himself as a representative of the people demanding justice,” an insider told Meduza. At the same time, he could “cultivate a thirst for revenge”. “Who can we blame if we don’t reach Kyiv if we withdraw from Kherson? The elites again,” the insider said.
“Putin’s Net – How the KGB Retook Russia and Then Set their Eyes on the West” by Catherine Belton.
The Russian political scientist Ivan Preobrazhensky assumes that Prigozhin can appeal to politicians who are particularly frustrated in smaller Russian cities. There they prefer a brutal and nationalistic tone. Since the death of the ultra-nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, there has been a desire for a new political role model.
Preobrazhensky still doubts that Yevgeny Prigozhin could really win elections for himself, but perhaps this would not even be necessary. The political scientist fears that political success in future Russia could be enforced by force.
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