Yevgeny Prigozhin’s sudden demise on Wednesday came as “no surprise” to President Joe Biden, nor anyone in the Western world for that matter.
His private jet came down not far from the city upon which he and his private militia had marched exactly two months earlier.
The facts of his jet’s crash remain uncertain – and whether Prigozhin was on it played a key part in the initial media reaction – but video evidence suggests that the plane was brought down deliberately.
If Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the plane be brought down, it would not mark the first time in which a critic has met an untimely demise.
Political opponents and hostile journalists are frequently punished in Russia, while at least three people opposed to the Kremlin have been poisoned on British soil since 2006.
It’s evident Putin’s biggest strength is his biggest fear: power.
Putin and Power
The Russian President has de facto ruled Russia since 2000.
Bar a brief period where he was Prime Minister from 2008-2012, Putin has controlled the country relatively unchallenged for nearly a quarter of a century, changing the constitution to ensure he remains in charge.
All politicians possess some sense of fear over their people, whether they govern in a democratic country or one which pretends to be. Dictators are renowned for their paranoia, and Putin is no exception.
The media is heavily controlled by the Kremlin in Russia; if Putin doesn’t want it known, it doesn’t get shown.
The Wagner Group, led by his once ally, are not his greatest fear. Until earlier this year, dangerous prisoners were released from prisons to fight for their country. Despite their clear lack of social boundaries, Wagner conscripts do not pose any realistic threat to Putin’s presidency as they lack support from many Russians.
Their deceased leader, however, was popular among many. Prigozhin’s outspoken criticism of the Russian Military Command resonated with many Russians who believed Ukraine would fall within days. Loved ones – now being conscripted – are returning from the battlefields in coffins. The illusion of a successful military campaign only lasts for so long, even if you do control the mainstream media.
Prigozhin’s near march on Moscow proved that he had the power to challenge the regime. His private militia were unopposed for much of their journey, with scenes of jubilation during their arrival in Rostov-on-Don. Prigozhin was a dead man walking far before June 2023; his failed coup did nothing more than confirm Putin’s already-made decision.
For Putin, anyone with power poses a threat to the regime. As such, they must be executed. Despite his iron grip on the country he’s ruled for one-third of his life, Putin’s petrified of anyone bar himself who may have power. If they get enough of it, he’s doomed.
Shay Bottomley is a British journalist based in Canada. He has written for the Western Standard, Maidenhead Advertiser, Slough Express, Windsor Express, Berkshire Live and Southend Echo, and has covered notable events including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
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