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Think Tank Analysis: Prigozhin’s Death and Its Implications for Putin’s Regime

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The demise of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the Wagner mercenary group, has sent ripples through the political landscape of Russia and raised questions about the stability of Vladimir Putin’s rule. While Prigozhin’s fiery plane crash might have initially seemed like a boon for Putin’s grip on power, experts caution that it may not necessarily quell dissent from ultranationalist and elitist factions, particularly in light of military setbacks in Ukraine.

 

Sam Ramani, an international relations expert at the University of Oxford, highlights the short-term suppression of ultranationalist unrest due to Prigozhin’s death. However, he emphasizes the uncertainty surrounding the potential resurgence of ultranationalist dissent, especially with the approaching March 2024 elections.

 

The Kremlin has vehemently denied any involvement in the plane crash, dismissing speculation that it was a retaliatory assassination for Prigozhin’s brief mutiny in late June. During this mutiny, Wagner fighters captured Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia before advancing towards Moscow.

 

Recent reports from two U.S. officials suggest that intelligence points to sabotage as a leading cause of the plane crash. Prigozhin’s death came after attempts to silence high-profile critics, such as the arrest of Andrei Kurshin, who ran the independent Telegram channel “Moscow Calling,” and the imprisonment of former army officer Igor Girkin on extremism charges.

 

Girkin, despite being behind bars, openly criticized Putin’s handling of the Ukraine conflict and hinted at contesting Putin in the upcoming election.

 

These developments raise concerns about the potential for civil unrest and infighting within Russia’s armed forces. Ukraine’s advances in the south of the country, coupled with internal divisions within the military, as evidenced by Prigozhin’s revolt, pose risks to Putin’s rule.

 

Another significant factor is the war reaching residential areas of Moscow through drone attacks, causing alarm among the Russian populace.

 

In Ukraine, Prigozhin’s death is seen as a display of Putin’s authority and a preemptive move to suppress opposition.

 

Keir Giles, a Russia expert at Chatham House, suggests that while there may be discontent among Putin’s supporters and surrounding elites, the threat posed by Wagner and Prigozhin is unique and unlikely to be repeated. Wagner was an external disruptive element that challenged the established power structure, a position that potential challengers from within lack.

 

The message sent by Prigozhin’s fate may deter others from challenging Putin, particularly those close to him who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo to safeguard their fortunes and safety.

 

In conclusion, Prigozhin’s death has brought both immediate stability and lingering uncertainties to Russia’s political landscape. While it may suppress some forms of dissent in the short term, it also highlights the potential for future challenges and unrest, making the upcoming 2024 elections a crucial turning point in Russian politics.

Saeed Minhas
Saeed Minhas
Saeed Minhas is an accomplished journalist with extensive experience in the field. He has held prominent positions such as Editor at Daily Times and Daily Duniya. Currently, he serves as the Chief Editor (National) at The Think Tank Journal

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