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Prigozhin regaining favour with Putin – ISW

Tuesday, 18 April 2023, 04:14
Prigozhin regaining favour with Putin – ISW

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has concluded that Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin "is seemingly regaining some favour with Russian President Vladimir Putin".

Source: ISW report on 17 April 2023

Details: The ISW has reported that Prigozhin might have regained Putin’s favour as Russian armed forces are failing to fulfil Putin’s military objectives in the Donbas offensive, which supposedly began this past winter.

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Wagner forces appear to receive reinforcements, ammunition, and political recognition, in contrast to the Kremlin’s earlier efforts to "expend" Wagner forces and Prigozhin in Bakhmut since at least January 2023.

On 17 April, Wagner-linked sources reported that the military company was training up to three motorised rifle brigades of mobilised military personnel to reinforce Wagner Group's flanks in Bakhmut.

Prigozhin also confirmed that Russian airborne forces are operating alongside Wagner and indicated that Wagner is actively receiving artillery shells.

ISW analysts remain unclear as to how much Putin trusts Prigozhin, but it is likely that he has put an end to the Russian Defence Ministry’s attempts to take revenge on Wagner Group by refusing its requests for ammunition and reinforcements.

At the same time, the ISW said that the recent interview with two former Wagner fighters, in which they discuss their abuse of Ukrainian children, civilians and prisoners of war, underscored that systematic cruelty and violence were fundamental to how the Wagner Group operates.

ISW analysts believe that the "extremely graphic atrocities" described by the two fighters, Azamat Uldarov and Alexei Savichev, confirm a number of recent reports that Wagner Group systematically relies on violence as a method of waging war.

The ISW also points out that Prigozhin and Wagner commanders might be actively inciting violence and brutality "in an attempt to build social cohesion and reputation within Wagner units".

Quote from the ISW: "This type of engrained violence is likely to have escalating domestic impacts on Russian domestic society, especially as Wagner fighters complete their contracts and return to their homes.

Russian society will have to increasingly work to handle the normalized brutality committed by its forces as they reintegrate into the domestic sphere, which will likely have generational domestic societal ramifications."

ISW Key Takeaways on 17 April:

  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin is seemingly regaining some favour with Russian President Vladimir Putin likely as a result of the Russian conventional military’s inability to accomplish the tasks Putin had set for it during the winter offensive in Donbas. The extent of Putin’s trust and favour for Prigozhin is unclear at this time, but it is likely that Putin halted the Russian MoD’s efforts to avenge Wagner by denying Wagner reinforcements and ammunition.
  • An interview with two former Wagner Group fighters on their treatment of Ukrainian children and other civilians and prisoners of war (POWs) further highlights how Wagner has institutionalised systematic brutality as part of its fundamental modus operandi.
  • The Gulagu.net interview with the two former Wagner fighters provides valuable insight into Wagner’s force structure and operational prioritisation.
  • The Moscow City Court sentenced Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza to 25 years in prison on the charge of high treason for Kara-Murza's criticism of the Kremlin and the war in Ukraine.
  • Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on April 16 and pledged to strengthen military exchanges and cooperation between Russia and China. Putin continued efforts to portray Russia as an equal defence partner with China and a Pacific naval power amidst Li’s visit.
  • Former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin’s newly formed "Club of Angry Patriots" published its manifesto focused on protecting pro-war factions in the Kremlin from possible "sabotage" and "betrayal."
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks northeast of Kupiansk and south of Kreminna.
  • Russian forces have made further gains in Bakhmut and continued ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
  • Russian forces continued defensive preparations in southern Ukraine.
  • The Kremlin's transition to electronic summonses distribution is continuing to complicate Russian conscription procedures.
  • Russian occupation authorities continue to discuss the provision of Russian passports in occupied areas of Ukraine.

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