khrushcheva167_SERGEI ILNITSKYPOOLAFP via Getty Image_prigozhin Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Russia’s New Rasputin

The chief of the feared Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been attacking Russia's top military brass and warning that ordinary Russians, increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress in the Ukraine war, could revolt. Is Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime in real danger?

NEW YORK – Russia’s war against Ukraine has not gone as planned, to say the least. And now Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the private military company Wagner Group, is escalating his public attacks on Russia’s military. At a time when the Kremlin is aggressively suppressing dissent, how does he get away with it?

Since launching his “special military operation” in February 2022, President Vladimir Putin has claimed to be pursuing a variety of objectives. After initially seeking the “denazification” and “demilitarization” of all of Ukraine (by seizing control of it), he aimed to “liberate” the eastern Donbas region. He has also spoken of defending Russia’s “historical frontiers” and insists that the West forced him to attack Ukraine.

These rhetorical shifts reflect battlefield dynamics – in particular, Russian forces’ repeated setbacks, mistakes, and miscalculations. Simply put, Putin is attempting to save face. But Prigozhin – on whom Putin has become increasingly dependent for battlefield victories – is not making it easy.

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