Russian President Vladimir Putin needs his military elite for the war in Ukraine. But two men gain more and more power. The “Siloviki” Yevgeny Prigozhin and Ramzan Kadyrov corner the President.

The “Siloviki” play an important role in the war in Ukraine. The military elite from Putin’s inner circle of power helps him achieve his goals. But in the course of this, two men are gaining more and more power: the head of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, and the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

The two hardliners are driving Putin ahead of them. And slowly pull the noose tighter and tighter. Kadyrov and Prigozhin repeatedly publicly criticize the Russian conduct of the war, above all the team led by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. This puts Putin in an insoluble dilemma, because he needs both groups, but the different interests can hardly be reconciled.

For more background on this dispute, read: The “Siloviki” put Putin in a dangerous dilemma

Now Kadyrov and Prigoshin are upping the ante again. In a diatribe on Tuesday, Kadyrov described the response to Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory as “weak”. He said Ukrainian cities must be “erased” from the face of the earth. In addition, Kadyrov declared that they were at “war” with Ukraine, ending the talk of a “military special operation”.

Recently Kadyrov had held back a bit. Now he’s putting pressure on Putin. As experts from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) write, Kadyrov’s tirade also points out that the Russian president annexed four Ukrainian regions before even fully conquering them. This causes chaos. And will provoke even greater criticism the more territory the Russians lose again in Ukraine.

Prigozhin, in turn, harshly criticized the Defense Ministry in a private conversation, according to the Washington Post. The ministry relies on its Wagner mercenaries, but is unwilling to equip them properly. In short: Prigozhin wants more money for his shadow army. He has long been recruiting men in Russian prisons himself and is building parallel structures to Putin’s troops. According to the “ISW” researchers, this could be dangerous for the Kremlin ruler.

They state: “Prigozhin’s criticism shows that he is in a unique position. He reaps the benefits of being dependent on Putin, but isn’t really responsible for any sector of the front.” Meanwhile, Prigozhin, also known as “Putin’s chef,” continues to build power. He is now also financing the media, thereby attacking Putin’s monopoly on opinion-forming.

Ironically, Prigozhin’s power increases while his troops find little success on the battlefield. The Wagner troops have been besieging the strategically very important city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine for months. The offensive bounced off the Ukrainian defense. And recently, the Wagner henchmen even lost ground and had to record high losses, as the “ISW” writes.

Also read: Russia’s most important offensive is now in danger of collapsing

According to reports, Prigozhin is struggling with the same problems as the regular army: poor training, lousy supplies. But the entrepreneur manages to steer the story in his direction. The “ISW” writes: “He constantly distracts from his forces by attacking the Russian military command. He will likely have the upper hand even if his troops are unsuccessful. Prigozhin can use his channels to influence public opinion in his direction at any time.”