What is Wagner boss Prigozhin up to?
In a video posted on Friday, Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin threatened to withdraw from Bakhmut and used strong language against Russia's military leadership, which he accused of sending too little equipment and ammunition. Today, Monday, the power struggle seems to have been settled and a withdrawal is off the table. Commentators examine the sinister Wagner boss's motives.
An emergency exit to save face
Prigozhin is just trying to ensure he can make a dignified exit, says political scientist Abbas Galliamov in a Telegram post republished by Echo:
“He has gone on record as saying that he is not fighting in ideal conditions, so the responsibility for the defeat will only fall on him to a minimum extent. Moreover, the Wagner boss can always repeat that he didn't get the munitions he needed. ... To appear convincing, Prigozhin must now say that his fighters went into the melee unarmed. And if he also organises an 'injury' - demonstrating that he himself was there - he's completely off the hook. The people would then say to themselves that he did everything he could.”
Fuelling people's anger
Prigozhin is becoming a tribune of the people, La Stampa writes:
“With his rabid populism - the invectives against generals who are getting rich while soldiers die could have been penned by Navalny - Prigozhin has not only become Russia's most-watched newsmaker, almost more so than Putin, but also seems far more real and frightening than the court of officials and propagandists who continue to threaten to use nuclear weapons against London and Berlin while sending their wives to shop in Paris and their children to study in London. It remains to be seen how long the transformation of the mercenary leader into a tribune of popular anger will last.”