Possible Putin challenger is “voice of the people”, says ex-Kremlin adviser

Ex-Kremlin adviser Sergei Markov has called Yevgeny Prigozhin the “voice of the people” because “he tells the truth” as speculation mounts that the businessman could pose a threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rule.

Nearly nine months after Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military has been struggling to achieve larger goals in Ukraine — allowing Kyiv to retake thousands of square miles of formerly occupied territory. Ukraine’s achievements have also increased political pressure on Putin to turn the tide of the war as his allies increasingly criticize the warfare.

Some analysts have suggested in recent weeks that Prigozhin – the founder of the Wagner Group, a private military unit and Putin’s ally – could pose a threat to Putin’s rule.

Prigozhin, nicknamed “Putin’s chef,” recently made headlines with scathing criticism of military leaders and wealthy Russian oligarchs, sparking speculation that he might be trying to consolidate power in Russia.

Ex-Kremlin adviser praises Yevgeny Prigozhin
Above is seen Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin during a meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia June 16, 2016. A former Kremlin aide has hailed Prigozhin as the “voice of the people,” amid speculation he could become a threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rule.
Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

On Saturday, Markov – a former Putin adviser – praised Prigozhin in a Telegram post for calling on Russian oligarchs to do more to lead Putin’s military to victory against Ukraine.

“Evgeny Prigozhin said that the Russian oligarchs should help the country more, help it [special military operation.] In fact, the Russian oligarchs did not earn their billions, but skillfully smuggled them away in the division of common Soviet property,” Markov wrote. “And now they’re trying to convert their citizenship to Israeli or Armenian or Uzbek and steal those billions from there. This is how Yevgeny Prigozhin becomes the voice of the people. Because he’s telling the truth.”

Experts noted Prigozhin’s recent notoriety.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote on October 24 that Prigozhin continued to gain power in Russia, noting that the Wagner group “could pose a threat to Putin’s rule.”

Ivan Klyszcz, a research fellow at the International Center for Defense and Security, previously said news week it is possible that Prigozhin could hold his own against Putin.

“He will probably aim to expand his influence in federal politics. In this sense, Putin will be obliged to accommodate him. Otherwise, Putin risks alienating a powerful ally who might actually turn against him, or at least stop cooperating,” Klyszcz said a month ago.

According to Russian independent media outlet Meduza, Prigozhin has made efforts to appeal to Russian nationalists frustrated by Ukraine’s lack of progress.

“There has been no mobilization of the elites. The oligarchs and other members of the elite have always lived in boundless comfort and continue to do so. Until their children go to war, the country will not be fully mobilized,” he said in October, Meduza reported.

news week reported on Friday that emails had been leaked from a whistleblower with Russia’s Federal Security Service, who predicted an “inevitable” Russian civil war amid cracks in the Kremlin.

“The service (FSB) is not ready for internal terror, and Prigozhin and Kadyrov think that their time has come and the moment has come to shine. Both realize that once they stop fighting and start a dialogue, both will no longer be necessary with Putin,” the whistleblower wrote in an email.

news week has asked the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.

https://www.newsweek.com/possible-putin-challenger-voice-people-ex-kremlin-adviser-says-1760874 Possible Putin challenger is “voice of the people”, says ex-Kremlin adviser

Rick Schindler

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