(Presidentialwire.com)- In recent weeks, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a billionaire with deep ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has made headlines for his harsh criticism of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
According to reports, Prigozhin, sometimes known as “Putin’s Chef,” has lambasted the Russian defense ministry and its chief, Sergei Shoigu, for Moscow’s military defeats. He has blamed Shoigu for a succession of catastrophic setbacks that have resulted in the retreat of Russian forces.
Ukraine’s counteroffensives have led to the recapture of large portions of territory in the south and northeast.
Mercenaries from Prigozhin’s Wagner Group, a notorious private force, assist Russian troops in conquering Ukrainian territory.
Reports show experts at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a U.S. defense and global affairs think tank, have determined that the group could threaten Putin’s power.
Analysts from ISW reported last week that Prigozhin continues to amass influence and is constructing a parallel military structure to the Russian Armed Forces, which may threaten Putin’s dominance in the information sphere.
The analysts report that Prigozhin is effectively building a constituency of supporters and a fighting force that is not directly under the control of the Russian military or the Ministry of Defense. He is free to promote himself and his troops while criticizing the Kremlin officials or the Russian military without fear of retaliation.
The ISW also stated that Russian journalists frequently inquire about Prigozhin’s Kremlin ambitions, indicating that he has built a public perception of his potential ascension to a position of power.
According to reports, Prigozhin appears to be emerging from the shadows and assuming a more prominent political posture in Russia.
Ivan Klyszcz, a research researcher at the International Centre for Defence and Security, told the media that the recent unveiling of Wagner stations in several regions of Russia is evidence of Prigozhin’s willingness to operate openly.
Putin has come to rely on Prigozhin for manpower in the fight and influence overseas, according to Klyszcz. This gives Prigozhin a great degree of leverage. He will likely seek to increase his power in federal politics so that Putin will be obligated to accommodate him. Otherwise, Putin risks alienating a powerful friend who could turn against him.
Unless Putin turns on him first.