Source Russian businessmen and officials spoken to by the agency have expressed concern that Wagner PMC founder Yevgeny Prigozhin is becoming an increasingly prominent figure in the Russian government. In particular, Bloomberg’s interlocutors were startled by Prigozhin’s calls for “urgent Stalinist reprisals” against businessmen who do not support the war in Ukraine. These words made businessmen fear for their safety and the safety of their families, the agency said. Especially against the background of the fact that all of Prigozhin’s open attacks on the military leadership and the governor of St Petersburg have gone unreacted by the Kremlin. And Russian officials, according to Bloomberg, have become more likely to ask each other if their families are okay, with many sending draft-age relatives abroad.
One Bloomberg source compared the current situation to a military dictatorship, but without the military coup that usually precedes it. Everyone’s main emotion right now is fear, the agency’s interlocutors said. They have all agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
“The state has lost its monopoly on legalized violence, and new operators of this former monopoly have emerged,” says political scientist Ekaterina Shulman (recognized as a foreign agent). – It’s strange that Putin encourages this.
Another Bloomberg interlocutor suggests that Putin has no choice but to rely on Prigozhin and Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov: they both have well-armed forces loyal to them.
All this makes Prigozhin “behave like a parallel government,” and he may “compete for power under Putin or after him,” says Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Endowment.
How often Prigozhin sees Putin, Bloomberg could not find out. But some of the agency’s interlocutors said the two have met more frequently in recent months. According to The Washington Post, Prigozhin has been critical of the military leadership in his personal conversation with Putin. In this, Prigozhin is in solidarity with Kadyrov.
Bloomberg’s sources, however, describe Putin himself as an increasingly isolated leader, surrounded by a small group of supporters and immune to criticism.