Prigozhins death turning beneficial to everyone except Putin, expert says

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not benefitting from the death of warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin as much as other people, a commentator has argued.

As speculation continues to swirl around the plane crash which is believed to have claimed the life of the Wagner Group leader, Russian media has been discussing the life and deeds of the former ally of Putin.

But Masha Borzunova, a Russian journalist specialising in state propaganda, noted the spotlight in the country hasn’t been on the coup attempted by Mr Prigozhin in late June – and how this daring move may have led to his own demise.

She told the Observer: “Russian propagandists are proving that Prigozhin’s death is beneficial to everyone except Putin.

“They’re discussing every possible version, except the most obvious one.”

READ MORE: Vladimir Putin ‘terrified of Wagner response’ if he admits to Prigozhin’s death

As Wagner Group’s troops were marching towards Moscow on June 24, Putin accused his former ally of “treason” and vowed to neutralise the rebellion.

While the mutiny came to an end thanks to the intervention of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Mr Prigozhin later said his men didn’t rise up against the Russian president but, rather, the military leadership accused of mishandling the conflict in Ukraine.

In the days after the mutiny, Putin said to have held an almost four-hour meeting at the Kremlin with Mr Prigozhin, but didn’t seem to backtrack from his accusation Wagner soldiers had “stabbed in the back” the Russian army and the country.

Ms Borzunova added: “The fact that Prigozhin was called a ‘traitor’ after the uprising and that Putin promised him an inevitable punishment is hardly being discussed.

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“Mainly, they’re discussing his achievements during the war. And how his death is not favourable for the Russian government.”

Another commentator – former Putin advisor, opposition politician and art collector Marat Gelman – said Mr Prigozhin’s profile may even be elevated in days and months to come if Ukraine “starts making gains”, adding his “myth will only grow”.

Also speaking to the Observer, he added: “There will be powers that mystify Priogzhin’s persona and present him as a martyr. Others will create stories that he is still alive.”

Another commentator, the BBC’s Russia editor Steve Rosenberg, had previously argued there is a risk Mr Prigozhin may reach martyrdom status.

He told the Radio4’s Today programme: “If this was an act of revenge by the authorities, that sends a clear message to Prigozhin’s loyalists about what may happen to those perceived by the Kremlin as having betrayed it. But what if Prigozhin becomes a martyr? What if those who pledged loyalty to him call for their own acts of revenge?”

Mr Prigozhin’s men fought in the months-long Battle of Bakhmut, and in May – before the warlord pulled his troops from the frontline amid the worsening of his relations with the Russian Ministry of Defence, – they claimed to have taken the city, an allegation rejected by Kyiv.

Mr Prigozhin, the founder of Wagner, Dmitry Utkin, and the group’s logistics chief Valery Chekalov are believed to have been aboard the private jet that crashed down north of Moscow on Wednesday evening.

While their deaths haven’t been officially confirmed, a few days after the crash Putin spoke of his former ally suggesting he had died, as he said: “He was a man with a complex fate. [Sometimes] he made mistakes; and [sometimes] he got the results he wanted — for himself and in response to my requests, for a common cause.”

The Kremlin has also branded as a “complete lie” allegations Putin was in any way involved in causing the plane crash.

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