"The 'accident' eliminates all possible Wagner leaders"

If no one was surprised by the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, Carmen Claudín, an expert on Russia and the post-Soviet space, was even less surprised.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
24 August 2023 Thursday 11:07
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"The 'accident' eliminates all possible Wagner leaders"

If no one was surprised by the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, Carmen Claudín, an expert on Russia and the post-Soviet space, was even less surprised. "I can't say that I thought it could happen now, maybe it could have happened as much as a month ago or several months from now... If they didn't eliminate him one way or another at the time - of his rebellion... Lyon in June–, if they did not capture him to make some kind of judgment with some pedagogical purpose..., if all this did not happen, it was clear that they had reached –Putin and Prigozhin– some kind of agreement, the content of which we don't know All we could know was that it included saving his life, sparing his soldiers... To make it believable to Prigozhin, they had to ask him for something in return. It is purely speculative, but it would be a role in Africa, a kind of Prigozhin the African, like Scipio..."

The agreement would have occurred in a meeting between Prigozhin and Wagner's commanders with Putin and high officials of the State on June 29, five days after the rebellion. It is not known what has happened since then. Did the appearance of Prigozhin, on the eve of his death, in a video allegedly in Africa give the idea that he could continue working there?

Yes. I redeem myself by working for the country... That's the idea.

To what extent was he working for Putin in Africa and to what extent in his own business?

We can say not too imprudently that it was both. Of course, he was profiting, as all those who have served Putin have profited just for the sake of doing so. Prigozhin was profiting and Putin allowed it because it served the interests of Russia. What African countries convey to the outside world is not that a bunch of mercenaries are helping them, but that Russia is helping them. It is clear that there is business for Russia in African resources, which makes the Kremlin's speech about support for these countries that have been able to decolonize even more cynical.

The Wagners are mercenaries and can have this name as well as any other. Should we think that Putin will continue to use this force in Africa?

I think so, but entirely on his terms. The information we have allows us to think that there was a good understanding, a balance between what Prigozhin was doing in Africa and what suited Putin: he never bothered that those around him got rich; it's the way to have them tied. It is one of the reasons why it is difficult for the oligarchs inside Russia to have any real power – unless they came together, which is science fiction – and could harm the regime. It is not clear to me whether Prigozhin volunteered or was called by Putin to intervene in Ukraine, but the big difference with the African Prigozhin is that he was little known in Russia, while in Ukraine he ends up becoming a hero . Because everyone knows that the regular army is not up to the mark and the only ones saving the honor of Russia, so to speak, are Prigozhin's pricks.

It seems that they liquidated the Wagner dome with one hit on the plane. And it was done in such a way that it was seen...

I believe that any version of Prigozhin's death would have been a message. Falling out of a window or a cup of tea removes Prigojin, not the dome, and instead the accident, or whatever you call it – even “attack by a foreign power” – allows them to remove all potential replacements for Wagner's leadership.

Journalist Hristo Grosev has said that, according to his sources, Prigozhin's death prompts a coup attempt...

I don't see it... Seriously, I think, and the facts point in this direction, that Prigozhin had no intention of carrying out a coup d'état, he wanted to clean up, put Putin in the situation of having to choose between and the useless ones of Xoigu and Gerassimov. And, of course, imbued with the role of a national hero, and obviously endorsed by a number of people, such as General Surovikin, who told him: you go ahead, we support you. And it wasn't like that. Nothing he did seemed like a stroke. We remember that his march towards Moscow was called the March of Justice. And I had nothing prepared for it, in Moscow!

Prigojin dead, General Surovikin dismissed, General Popov retaliated against, Donbass militia leader Igor Girkin arrested... Is the position of General Guerassimov and the Minister of Defense, Shoigu, now strengthened?

Xoigu and Gerassimov are strengthening for the moment! If something were to happen to them that could be interpreted as a punitive decision by Putin, it would be to vindicate Prigozhin's criticism, and Putin cannot allow that in any way. But I wouldn't rule out at all, in a while, that Xoigú will be retired, so to speak. He defends them at the moment because he can't do anything else, but they are very toxic allies for him because they are criticized a lot, and not only in radical nationalist circles. It is one of Putin's weak points at the moment.