The "Prigozhins" may find Russia to be an unfavorable country to live in now

Putin decided to discipline the power elite with fear of terror by punishing the central character of the so-called mutiny, Yevgeny Prigozhin, spectacularly and sweeping the history of the Wagnerians saga under the carpet. This decision marked the end of the story for a handy political tool, Prigozhin himself.

A specific era finished when an Embraer Legacy private jet crashed in the Tver region on August 23 after 6 p.m., killing Yevgeny Prigozhin, Dmitry Utkin, Valery Chekalov, and several mercenaries. The notorious owner, leader, and commanders of the Wagner Group are gone.

At these types of events, there are often different versions and narratives. Some are fantastical, while others aim to blur the picture and spread conspiracy theories. For instance, some believe that if Prigozhin was not on board, the catastrophe was a hoax designed to allow the owner of the Wagner Group to go under the radar somewhere in the world. However, it is worth noting that whether the plane was shot down by a missile or a bomb exploded on board near Tver, Prigozhin, and the Wagner Group no longer remains a factor in Russian internal politics.

The days of warlords are through. While they were once necessary, since 2014, they have performed crucial tasks for the Russian state in various locations, such as during conflicts in Donbas, Syria, Libya, and Africa. Yevgeny Prigozhin provided his services to Russian special services, waging an information war against the West through his companies by bombarding social networks in the United States and Europe with disinformation and provocations.

Under Patriot Media concern, Prigozhin’s media in Russia disseminated radical, chauvinistic propaganda, fueling aggression against Ukraine. The Wagner Group expanded to the size of a private army and participated in Russia’s war against Ukraine, including the capture of Bakhmut. Prigozhin’s mutiny in Rostov-on-Don ended the Wagner Group’s epic two months ago.

Condolences, strategic warning, and lessons to learn

Prigozhin provided various services to the Kremlin, including earning significant money from contracts with the army and trade in Africa. He also played a role in the June quasi-rebellion, though it is unclear if this was directly for Vladimir Putin or just for a part of the Kremlin elite. However, like his previous activities, he was not acting independently but rather as a pawn in the power struggle in Russia.

The Rostov mutiny ended with a compromise. The Wagner Group was fragmented, and some members were sent to internment camps in Belarus under Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s control. Prigozhin was instructed to withdraw from the Russian political scene and public appearances and focus on Africa. Mainly because he was still the beneficiary of many secrets and knew the terms of the Kremlin’s compromise after June. The emotional and honorable element also played a role. 

A downside development. It was a bitter pill for Putin to swallow when someone raised a hand against Kremlin authorities, even as part of an agreed performance. He couldn’t tolerate public insults against him. He saw it as a personal affront and sought revenge to demonstrate that such behavior will always be punished.

It appears that Putin failed to uphold his end of the deal with Prigozhin regarding security after the rebellion. However, Putin has a history of not fulfilling promises and resorting to physical elimination against those who go against him. It was evident during the mutiny when he labeled Prigozhin a traitor. 

–I have known Prigozhin since the early 1990s. He was a complex person who made many mistakes in life but achieved the results I desired when we worked together for a common cause, as we did in recent months. Putin described him as a talented businessman while extending his public condolences.

These words describe Putin’s logic in such situations. They are the strategic message to the Kremlin elite: loyalty is vital, and overstepping the boundary leads to consequences. Betrayal will not be tolerated. Prigozhin paid the highest price for his disobedience.

The cleaning up within the elite and army has started. They now face a series of purges and witch hunts. Putin needs to consolidate his power elite ahead of the upcoming regional elections on September 10 and the primary test, the presidential election next year. Using violence is the simplest and cheapest instrument in his hands to achieve this goal, which is likely to harm anyone who recently sympathized with the criticism of Moscow’s military operations expressed by the leader of the Wagnerians.

Just like the mob

For the Kremlin elite, consolidating around Putin requires a decisive victory in the war. Success means pushing the West out of Ukraine, ending integration with Western structures, changing Ukrainian elites to pro-Russian, and occupying a large part of Ukraine, including Kyiv.

It is now clear that the previous assumption is an unattainable dream. There are only two options left: negotiate and compromise with Ukraine and the West or engage in a long-lasting war that aims to exhaust the opponent and cause divisions in the West, especially after upcoming elections in the USA and Europe.

Both options risk increasing dissatisfaction among officials and officers, potentially leading to factions demanding a correction or removal of those who supported the current policy. Putin saw these trials as a deadly threat and acted accordingly by removing Prigozhin, who represented a crack in the monolith of power.

The Soviet regime sent internal opposition, such as courtiers, party members, and generals, to remote areas and erased them from history. Nikita Khrushchev demoted and retired General Matvei Shaposhnikov for refusing orders to shoot rebellious workers in Novocherkassk. Later, Khrushchev was sent into retirement by Brezhnev’s team.

Putin is more closely aligned with the tactics of 1990s St. Petersburg gangsters than with USSR methods. When someone refuses to pay tribute or considers challenging their boss and changing the spheres of influence, it ends with a bomb under the car. It’s best to be in the city center since newspapers will cover it for a long time. Therefore, the rest of the gang would become terrified and abandon any aspirations for change, ultimately bowing to the boss.

Michał Kacewicz/

Translated by PEV

The opinions and thoughts expressed in the text reflect only the author's views.