The Ukrainian military has been extremely successful in recapturing Russian-held territory. Vladimir Putin is (SURELY?) dissatisfied with the work of his Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu – and is (SURELY?) increasingly relying on the services of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the notorious mercenary group “Wagner”.

In Moscow (it’s obviously getting uncomfortable) the wind is turning for Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. The Russian army and its commander-in-chief Vladimir Putin had to accept severe territorial losses after Ukraine’s successful military counter-action. Within a few days, the Ukrainian armed forces recaptured large areas of occupied territory, including the city of Kharkiv in north-eastern Ukraine.

This has consequences, not only for the liberated inhabitants of the occupied territories, but also further east, in Moscow: the recent military successes of the Ukrainians are (surely?) a thorn in Putin’s side, his military man, Shoigu, has to (surely? ) therefore worried about his job these days. His possible successor: Yevgeny Prigozhin, the “Chef of the Kremlin”.

The US think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has identified a possible new defense minister in Sergei Shoigu’s predicament in Yevgeny Prigozhin. He is the financier of the Wagner Group, known for its brutality. The mercenary boss seems to be establishing himself as the new face of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. DOCUMENTS OF THE ISW??

It was not until September 14 that the Russian entrepreneur, also known as “Putin’s cook”, gave a speech to Russian prisoners who were to be recruited for combat operations on Ukrainian national territory.

The Russian oligarch was given the name “Putin’s cook” because he is said to have entertained Putin in his restaurant in the past. Like the Russian ruler, Prigozhin also comes from St. Petersburg. American security circles say: “The former criminal who became one of the most powerful men in Russia is the pure product of an underworld of security militias, spies, secret service agents, mafia bosses and ex-convicts .”

Prigozhin seems to be in Putin’s favour. His recent appearance in front of prisoners who are supposed to take up arms for Russia is a testament to how important Putin considers this man for the further course of the war in Ukraine.

According to Prigozhin, Russian prisoners have been fighting as soldiers on the battlefield since July 1. Their use made a significant contribution to the successful capture of the Wuhlehirsk coal-fired power plant in Donetsk. The recording of Prigozhin allegedly comes from a prison in the city of Yoshkar-Ola, almost 760 kilometers from Moscow.

Prigozhin’s (a more important role of …would please critics…) words are music to the ears of those who blame the Russian defense minister for the recent territorial losses around Kharkiv. Russian military bloggers are increasingly openly expressing their dissatisfaction with Shoigus’ conduct of the war in relevant forums. (as the ISW reports

Prigozhin, who has always officially denied any connections to the Kremlin and even took legal action when he made such statements, has received a lot of encouragement online for the brutal use of his Wagner troupe. The Wagner Troupe is a mercenary Kremlin troupe, also known as “Putin’s shadow army”. While the Kremlin no longer denies the group’s existence, it continues to deny commanding it.

Russian military correspondent and military blogger Maksim Fomin (aka Vladlen Tatarsky) claims to have met with Prigozhin. The situation on the Russian-Ukrainian border was exchanged and the withdrawal of Russian troops from formerly occupied areas was discussed. There is no official confirmation of the meeting between Prigozhin and Fomin.

However, if the two did meet, it could indicate that the Kremlin takes the military bloggers’ dissatisfaction seriously enough. Support for the military blogger scene and the nationalists is of the utmost importance to the Kremlin. Prigozhin could be of use to Putin domestically. Unlike Shoigu’s military strategy, Russian nationalists approve of his actions.

Prigozhin’s increasingly important role does not bode well for Sergei Shoigu. Because Shoigu’s defense ministry ignored the concerns of military bloggers and nationalists for months. A strategy that could now possibly be fatal to him. Should Putin seek someone responsible for Russia’s troubles on the battlefield in the near future, Shoigu’s name would come to mind. The removal of the current defense minister and the strengthening of Prigozhin could allow Putin to save face.