The relationship between the Russian president and the man behind the notorious Wagner Group, a private military company that operates in various conflict zones around the world, has been a subject of speculation and intrigue for years. Prigozhin, a former convict turned billionaire businessman, is widely believed to be the mastermind of Russia’s covert operations in Syria, Libya, Sudan, Central African Republic and other countries. He is also accused of meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and orchestrating a failed coup attempt in Montenegro.
But according to a recent report by the investigative outlet Proekt, Putin had ordered the assassination of Prigozhin in 2018, after he learned that the Wagner Group had killed three Russian journalists who were investigating its activities in Central African Republic. The report claims that Putin was furious with Prigozhin for tarnishing Russia’s reputation and endangering its interests in Africa. However, the plan was aborted at the last minute, allegedly because Prigozhin managed to convince Putin that he was loyal and useful to him.
So why did Putin change his mind? What does Prigozhin offer to Putin that makes him indispensable? And what are the implications of this revelation for Russia’s foreign policy and domestic politics?
One possible explanation is that Prigozhin provides Putin with a convenient tool to pursue his geopolitical ambitions without risking direct involvement or accountability. By using a private military company, Putin can deny any responsibility for its actions and avoid international sanctions or condemnation. Prigozhin also has extensive connections and influence in Africa, where he reportedly controls lucrative mining and security contracts and supports local leaders who are friendly to Russia. Moreover, Prigozhin has a reputation for being ruthless and efficient, willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals.
Another possible explanation is that Prigozhin has some leverage over Putin, such as compromising information or personal ties. Some analysts have suggested that Prigozhin may have access to sensitive data or secrets that could damage Putin’s image or interests. Others have speculated that Prigozhin may have helped Putin amass his enormous wealth or secure his political power. In any case, Prigozhin may have enough clout to dissuade Putin from eliminating him.
The report by Proekt, which was based on anonymous sources and documents, has not been independently verified or confirmed by other media outlets or authorities. However, if true, it raises serious questions about the nature and extent of Putin’s control over Russia’s foreign policy and security apparatus. It also exposes the potential risks and challenges that Prigozhin poses to Russia’s stability and legitimacy. How long can Putin tolerate Prigozhin’s actions and ambitions? How will the Russian public and elites react to this revelation? And how will the international community respond to Russia’s use of private military contractors?