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Dangerous Wagner mercenary boss was disaster waiting to happen for Putin

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is now a problem entirely of the Kremlin’s making.

His business empire has grown and expanded over the past decade, attaining an ever more violent and dangerous character, from cooking to comms to trolls to mercenaries.

Prigozhin’s rhetoric over the past weeks against Russia’s top military brass has grown ever more virulent and dangerous, and yet he has been allowed to continue unchecked.

Ukraine war latest: Wagner boss and his troops seize city 300 miles from Moscow


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Putin accuses Prigozhin of treason

Perhaps President Vladimir Putin was lulled into a false sense of security because he was never name-checked directly himself.

If so, that would appear to have been a terrible oversight.

If Putin has always operated according to a divide and rule policy, hoping that if all factions war with one another then none will become too powerful, then it appears to have backfired.

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This declaration essentially of armed insurrection, if only against defence minister Sergei Shoigu and the chief of the general staff Valery Gerasimov, is precisely what Putin fears.

Finally he has come down hard, calling this treason though once again failing to name Prigozhin directly, (just as he never names Alexei Navalny or others he deems a threat).

Could this be too little too late?

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Wagner armed troops near Russian military HQ

Quite what Prigozhin hopes to achieve is unclear.

And how successful he will be depends on whether he has the capacity to bring other elements within the armed forces on side.

Vladimir Putin and Yevgeny Prigozhin at a factory outside St Petersburg in September 2010. Pic: AP
Yevgeny Prigozhin and Vladimir Putin at a factory outside St Petersburg in September 2010. Pic: AP

The GRU, Russia’s military intelligence, has links with Wagner.

They share a base at the Molkino training ground in Russia’s Krasnodar region, for example.

In a video Prigozhin released on Saturday morning, the GRU deputy defence minister Vladimir Alexeyev sits with him though he has called on Prigozhin to desist.

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Whatever happens next, this, for Putin, looks now like a disaster waiting to happen.

Prigozhin looked dangerous, sounded dangerous, and is dangerous.

Why Putin did not consider him dangerous until now is perhaps another grave misstep in a long series of them.


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