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Prigozhin prepares ground for political offensive

Mar 15, 2023

Yevgeny Prigozhin says his Wagner troops will be reduced when the battle for the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut is over. He is currently maneuvering on the domestic front in favor of Russian dictator Putin.


This is stated in the article of The New York Times.

As his mercenaries try to complete the capture of Bakhmut, Prigozhin is increasingly turning his attention to the Russian domestic front, in what analysts see as an attempt to provide political distance from the grueling struggle on the battlefield.

He said that his fighting force would take a backseat after the fight for Bakhmut is over to "gradually reboot, to shrink." He also added in a video message published on March 11 that Wagner "will turn into an army with an ideology, and this ideology will be a struggle for justice."

It is noted that such statements coincided with other recent statements that Putin's "chef" wants to abandon his status as a military leader and play a greater role in Russian society.

Last week, Wagner, which had been operating in secrecy until last year, announced that it would open recruitment centers in 42 Russian cities, despite the decline in the number of veterans who form the backbone of its forces. The Wagnerites also recently opened a patriotic youth club called "Little Wagnerite" and organized an exhibition of wartime paintings.

This change coincides with a wave of speculation about Prigozhin's political ambitions, as he combines upbeat statements and criticism of the Russian army with a close eye for the Russian hierarchy - and respect for President Putin.

"He sees his future as threatened, and he's trying to find a place for himself after Bakhmut in a large-scale war," said Jack Margolin, a Washington-based expert on Russian private military companies.

At the same time, Prigozhin has stepped up efforts to demonstrate broad support for Wagner among Russian businessmen, politicians and military personnel.

Last week, he publicly thanked Russia's industry minister and the head of the military-industrial conglomerate Rostec for providing the ammunition.

Over the past few months, he has also made public his ties to regional officials and nationalist politicians on the periphery of Putin's political system, as well as other pro-Russian paramilitary leaders. The Wagnerites were supported by the governor of the Kursk region, Roman Starovoit, who received training at the group's base in January.

It is worth noting that his region is often the target of Ukrainian drones and missiles.

Analysts say that such alliances could be a prelude to Wagner's transformation into a political movement that will help Putin achieve his goal of mobilizing Russian society for a long war through recruitment and propaganda campaigns.

Author - Serhii Kolomiets, 15/03/2023

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