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Putin’s authority undermined by disloyalty, security policy expert says

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Credit: Sergey Bobylev/TASS
Putin’s authority undermined by disloyalty, security policy expert says

A short-lived mutiny of Wagner mercenaries put the stability of Putin’s regime to the test and weakened his grip on power, John Lough, the Associate Fellow at Russia and Eurasia Programme, wrote in his piece for Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs based in London.

According to John Lough, parts of the Russian intelligence services, sections of the military, and the internal security forces likely colluded with Wagner’s leader Evgeny Prigozhin, making the mutiny possible.

US authorities knew about preparations for the mutiny in advance. Still, Vladimir Putin did not see it coming, which can be explained by disloyalty in Russian military and security services, John Lough stated.

Wagner chief Prigozhin planned mutiny in Russia since mid-June – Washington Post

“Putin has been shown to have lost his previous ability to be the arbiter between powerful rival groups. This has undermined his public image in Russia as the all-powerful Tsar and called into question his value as a protector of elites’ status and wealth,” John Lough wrote. “His television appeal to the country on Saturday morning showed him in a state the Russian public has never previously seen: frightened and betraying panic.” 

Russia’s authoritarian President later suffered the humiliation of relying on the self-proclaimed president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenka, to negotiate terms with Wagner’s leader Evgeny Prigozhin, John Lough noted.

Eventually, Putin agreed to declare amnesty to Evgeny Prigozhin and his mercenaries and give them free passage to neighboring Belarus, ignoring the fact that the Wagner troops destroyed several aircraft and killed a dozen of Russian servicemen during the mutiny that stalled some 200 kilometers from Moscow.

The disloyalty in military and security services and the passiveness of Rosgvardiya, Russia’s National Guard that Putin relied on as a pillar of his regime to ensure his security, now pose a severe problem for the Russian president, according to John Lough.

Wagner’s mutiny exposes serious cracks in Putin’s regime, Blinken says

“In an authoritarian system, loyalty to the leader relates directly to their perceived influence and authority. Power is maintained by ensuring the loyalty of institutions that control the state’s instruments of violence and repression,” John Lough wrote. “With his war on Ukraine already proceeding badly for the Russian army, Putin now cannot rely on the execution of his orders. They may be sabotaged or simply not carried out.”

The Wagner’s mutiny demonstrated that Putin’s authority is vulnerable to challenges within his own ranks, John Lough noted. A purge of the Russian military and security services during the war against Ukraine could only worsen the situation in the face of growing opposition inside Russia. It would hardly help Putin to consolidate power. Bringing the war to a rapid end is also not a good option for Putin because settling with Ukraine based on “modest territorial gains” would signal his personal weakness and intensify internal tensions, according to John Lough.

“In the language of chess, Putin is in zugzwang. Any move he makes looks set to worsen his position,” John Lough concluded.


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