“The only saint in this stupid war is the Russian soldier who was left to his fate.” The quote is from the May 13 video, which is characterized by his contorted face and shouting “Shoigu!” followed by the usual insults against the Secretary of Defense became famous.
In Russia there is no figure of the man in the street that is forgotten by everyone. Its only possible equivalent is the image of the good soldier, a national myth protected and protected to the utmost by a law that provides for very severe penalties for defaming the army. Yevgeny Prigozhinsi’s daily messages, while imbued with his malign anger, stand on a delicate balance and often hit the same keys. Of course, the founder of the Wagner Brigade, who recently—perhaps in macabre self-mockery—changed his nickname from Koch to Putin’s Butcher, claims he’s the only person who can save “our boys” from defeat. “Give me the army if you really want to win,” he says between the lines.
But in his outbursts against the President’s administration, never against him, he rules out any attack on the “strongmen” of the intelligence community. As if he wanted to announce his choice of specialty. With the Russian “hawks” like Nikolai Patrushev and Igor Sechin, but always against the trembling and corrupt elites who, in his opinion, are destroying the Russian state and any chance of victory in Ukraine. Without ever expressing a direct criticism of Vladimir Putin, which is not some joke like the recent one about the “grandfather”, but combined with the wish that he may live for a long time.
The Home Front
They are inward-looking messages that are becoming more frequent and virulent as they are ignored by the state media, who have orders against him to truncate, suppress and publish only the updates he provides from the front, in short, the news and not the comments .which get a bigger echo abroad. We are at the beginning of an election year, it is worth remembering. On September 10, all regions and Moscow will vote on the election of the new mayor. A dress rehearsal for the presidential elections that will take place in early March. Prigozhin tells many truths. In the reverse course of the war, we wanted to wipe out Ukraine, and now the whole world loves her, we wanted to destroy her army and only made her more powerful. But also a lot of lies. In fact, he declared yesterday that he has no political ambitions.
However, his recent comments on this point go in the opposite direction. “It’s one thing to discredit the army, power and some of the high bureaucrats.” Another is telling things how they’re going to force institutions to change. I want to win because I love Russia and I’m not selling my country.” Stanislav Kucher, a famous journalist in the days of free press and now a political analyst, begins with a suggestive comparison. “Prigozhin is a populist with the image of a patriot attempting an operation similar to what Benito Mussolini did in Italy in the 1920s.” He feels ready to become the crisis manager of a troubled system and shoulder all the responsibility.”
The “Third Force”
Rather, his room for maneuver and his freedom seem to be very limited. The project, conventionally named “Third Force,” was developed by Kremlin strategists back in 2016, coincidentally just before the parliamentary elections, when a group of officers returning from Donbass declared they were the only alternative to both the vertical of Putin’s power and the liberal opposition. When things are going bad, the falcon screaming and showing dead soldiers makes the current power seem moderate. Prigozhin is preparing to become the face or voice of this Third Force.
As in 2016, there is a credibility problem. Putin’s Butcher is certainly not a reassuring figure. That is precisely why it is useful to show that there is no alternative to Putin. “With his aggressive dialectics,” says Kucher, “he is an excellent candidate to lead a death battalion when the Russians, including the elite, would prefer to stay alive.” Abbas Gallyamov, Putin’s former speechwriter, who is now in the exile agrees on this point. “As a Duma deputy, it is at most sufficient to make a speech against everyone. But the prospect of such a president could turn off many voters because he would be the president of the apocalypse.
The Tsar’s Game
Black Prigozhin serves Putin, and not just on the battlefield. In the end, it might just be another RPG. A few days ago, the Fair Russia for Truth (RGPV) party, which has always played the role of sham opposition in parliament, held its congress. Their leader, Sergei Mironov, is considered Prigozhin’s megaphone, author of the bill equating the “Wagnerians” with the soldiers of the Russian Armed Forces. The assembly unanimously approved further ultra-nationalist turn and co-opted many people close to the mercenary group into its board. Maybe that’s what Prigozhin means when he says he’s already won, however it turns out. In the meantime, Russian politics has been “Wagnerized”. When negotiations begin, it will be necessary to give a voice to the eternal war party that refuses to compromise. And by comparison, Putin will once again look like the good and sensible father who only acts for the good of his country