The Russian military is regaining prominence in the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine.
Marian NadlerEditor News
Can Yevgeny Prigozhin (61) bury his dreams of power and influence in Russia in the future? According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin (70) wants to overthrow the leader of the Wagner mercenary group.
Sergei Surovikin (56), who was widely praised by Prigozhin, had already been demoted on January 11 by the commander of the Russian army to deputy to the new military chief Valeri Gerasimov (67). A few days later, the Ministry of Defense announced far-reaching reforms for the expansion and restructuring of the Russian armed forces. In the course of this, Prigozhin is apparently also getting a kick out of it.
His promise to the Kremlin to capture Bakhmut for Russia is now likely to become a problem for Prigozhin. After months of fighting, the completely destroyed city in the Ukraine is still not in Russian hands. Apparently, Moscow has run out of patience with the Wagner mercenaries, and now the regular military is to go.
High losses: Video is said to show graves of Wagner mercenaries(00:34)
Ministry of Defense mentions Wagner only in passing
In addition, the Ukrainian secret service recently reported on a deal between Surovik and Prigozhin that enabled the Wagner troops to obtain heavy weapons. That doesn’t seem to have gone down well in the Kremlin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (67).
Although the Wagner mercenaries continue to contribute to the Russian war effort in Ukraine, their importance decreases significantly in the course of the reforms. This is also made clear by the fact that after conquering the town of Soledar, which is not far from Bakhmut, Putin did not mention the Wagner fighters at all.
Only after pressure from Prigozhin did the Defense Ministry subsequently mention the mercenaries in a report. According to Wagner’s description, the conquest of Soledar was largely due to the mercenaries. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov (55) then indirectly accused Prigozhin of publicly fueling the conflict between Wagner and the Russian Defense Minister. The Kremlin has apparently grown weary of the “pretentious” rhetoric of the man who has become known as “Putin’s cook”.
Prigozhin had repeatedly tried in the past to portray the Russian army as being dependent on Wagner’s forces. According to the ISW, the truth is different: without the support of the Russian army in logistics and weapons, Wagner would have no chance. The military experts paint the picture of a disorganized force. In addition, Prigozhin is apparently finding it increasingly difficult to recruit new fighters – even though he is already heavily involved in Russia’s prisons.
Prigozhin’s hopes for more influence are dashed
At the same time, the Ukrainian secret service and selected Kremlin officials are reporting a possible second wave of mobilization in Russia. In addition, according to the ISW, the Russian army has been working on its professionalism and reviewing its chains of command in recent weeks.
Should the acute shortage of troops be curbed with the help of additional recruits, Wagner would also lose importance here. The mercenaries were also used in the Ukraine because the invasion turned out to be significantly more costly for the Russian army than initially assumed. The British Ministry of Defense estimates that Wagner is deploying up to 50,000 fighters in Ukraine.
The ISW’s hard-hitting conclusion: Prigozhin’s hopes of wresting dominance in Russian military affairs from Commander Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (67) are gone. The illusion of the ambitious businessman has burst like a soap bubble.
Prigozhin reaches the limits of his power
“Prigozhin’s recent apparent fall from grace and influence likely reflects the real limits of his power,” the US think tank’s briefing said. The troupe of the former Putin buddy is still not officially recognized in Russia. Russian criminal law prohibits the operation of mercenary associations.
But all of this also shows that the Russian armed forces in Ukraine are seething. The new commander, Valery Gerasimov, is anything but popular with the Wagner mercenaries. Prigozhin is said to be displeased with Gerasimov’s obsession with detail, and his fighters savagely insulted the military chief in a video late last year, as reported by The Daily Beast.
Prigozhin is not giving up just yet: he has now launched a series of campaigns in which he attempts to portray himself as a self-sacrificing hero of Russia in a crusade against petty and corrupt Russian authorities. According to a report by “Bild”, he would like to stage his Wagner group as an independent army.
The ISW assumes that Prigozhin will continue to criticize loudly, but that this will lose weight as a result of the Kremlin’s dismissal. Whether the rumblings continue also depends on how successful Gerasimov and the Russian army will be in the coming months.