Vladimir Putin allegedly feuding with close ally and sources reveal he could soon be 'eliminated'

The head of the Wagner mercenary group has seemingly gotten too big for his boots, and Vladimir Putin isn't having it.

Vladimir Putin allegedly feuding with Wagner chief who could soon be target of assassination attempt
© Yevgeny Prigozhin / Getty Images
Vladimir Putin allegedly feuding with Wagner chief who could soon be target of assassination attempt

Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin is reportedly on Vladimir Putin’s bad side after branding Moscow’s generals as a 'bunch of clowns'.

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Taking all the credit

Prigozhin has allegedly been bragging that his 500-strong private paramilitary fighters are more effective than Russia’s military. He reportedly boasted that his forces had single-handedly taken control of the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar.

Putin allegedly feels threatened and is paranoid about Prigozhin's power, according to experts from the think-tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW). The Russian President made a point of not crediting Prigozhin or his fighters for the town's capture and has started to reinvolve himself in the war effort, meeting commanders.

The ISW said:

Prigozhin did not take the hint, if hint it was, but instead redoubled his efforts to assert himself by advertising the superiority and successes of his own troops
His rhetoric and self-presentation had become overbearing and ostentatiously swaggering until things began to go south for him.

Not only that, Prigozhin has been openly critical of the leadership of Russia's army and military. As a result, Putin has started marginalising the Wagner group, appointing General Valery Gerasimov as the country’s new military commander.

'A bunch of clowns'

In his latest reproach, Prigozhin labelled Russia's defence chiefs as 'a bunch of clowns' seeking the 'glamorisation of the army'. He said:

Jail inmates fight better than units of the Guards. Servicemen with broken spines pass on their military experience at training camps, moving around like robots.
And a bunch of clowns try to teach fighters exhausted with hard military labour how many times they ought to shave — and what kind of perfume they must use to greet high commanders.

He added:

I believe we must introduce legal restrictions, and the harshest punishment with a jail term of up to 50 years for the glamorisation of the army.

Read more: Vladimir Putin accused of 'deceiving' his own soldiers: 'The command doesn't care about us'

Has he gone too far?

Prigozhin’s bold criticism has led some to wonder whether his ambition might have got the better of him. A source in the Russian political elite said:

People from the FSB are furious about him and see him as a threat to the constitutional order.

It seems Prigozhin needs to remember that he depends on Putin’s continued favour to operate at all. A businessman who knew Prigozhin back in the 1990s said:

He understands that many hate him in the system … so he knows that if he stops, it could be the end for him. He has no choice. He cannot reverse.

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A potential assassination attempt

Indeed, the Kremlin suggested on Tuesday 24 January that there could be an assassination attempt on Prigozhin. Despite angering Putin, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said it's actually Ukrainian authorities that Prigozhin should be concerned about.

Prigozhin himself said he’d been informed about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and CIA director William Burns apparently meeting to talk about his assassination.

When asked about the accusation, Peskov said:

Ukraine is involved in both assassination attempts and an absolutely monstrous murder. The involvement of the Kyiv regime in such assassination attempts is obvious, so there is such a danger to our citizens.

It was Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-installed leader in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, who originally made the assassination claim. Rogov told Russian state media:

One of the requests Zelensky made [during a meeting with the CIA director] was the murder of the Wagner boss, Mr. Prigozhin.

Prigozhin, through his press service, joked that killing him was a 'very good idea':

I agree that it’s time to eliminate Prigozhin. If they turn to me, I will definitely assist.

However, there are those who believe that it is Russia who will benefit the most from his elimination. One commentator wrote:

It seems to me that those who are most interested in Prigozhin's elimination are located near the Kremlin. They’ll just leak information about [his] movements and locations to the Ukrainians.

Sources used:

- Daily Mail: 'Paranoid Putin 'turns against' Wagner chief after the mercenary boss 'failed to take the hint' and kept bragging that his forces achieved more success than Russia's'

- Daily Mail: 'Wagner mercenary chief risks further angering Putin as he dismisses Moscow generals as 'a bunch of clowns' and boasts his troops are superior to Russia's… as Vladimir fires ANOTHER military leader'

- The Guardian: 'Yevgeny Prigozhin: the hotdog seller who rose to the top of Putin’s war machine'

- Daily Beast: 'Kremlin Admits ‘Putin’s Chef’ Might Be Assassinated Soon'

Vladimir Putin could be losing close military ally in Russia as alleged feud escalates Vladimir Putin could be losing close military ally in Russia as alleged feud escalates