khrushcheva169_ BRENDAN SMIALOWSKIAFP via Getty Images_putin Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Russia’s Fractured State

Russians may still be afraid to speak out publicly against their president. But in the wake of Yevgeny Prigozhin's aborted rebellion, President Vladimir Putin’s weakness – and the cracks in the system he so meticulously built – are unmistakable.

MOSCOW – No development during Vladimir Putin’s 23 years in power has so clearly pointed to his regime’s fragility as the Wagner Group’s aborted mutiny on June 24. The Wagner mercenaries, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, brazenly challenged the Kremlin’s authority – and now appear to have gotten away with it. Russia’s internal security service, the FSB, has abandoned its criminal investigation into the revolt. But Putin’s problems hardly end with Wagner.

Prigozhin’s fighters would not have been able to travel almost a thousand kilometers (621 miles) within Russian territory in less than a day without help from members of Putin’s inner circle or the military. Rumors are swirling that the billionaire brothers Yuri and Mikhail Kovalchuk may have played a role. The Kovalchuks, close associates of Putin, reportedly share Prigozhin’s belief that Russia has not been forceful enough in the war or in its broader confrontation with the West.

Another possible collaborator is General Sergei Surovikin. Like Prigozhin, Surovikin has reportedly advocated a far more brutal war effort than Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu seems willing to conduct. Since the mutiny, he has not been seen in public, and is said to be “resting.”

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