The unexpected move against the Russian Defence leadership by Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin on Saturday may have brought Russia one step closer to a “post-Putin” era, an expert said.
Anthony King, professor in war studies at Warwick University, noted his belief the Russian President retains a strong grip over the nation, but the events of Saturday may have dented his credibility within his inner circle.
Mr King, who stressed he specialises in the study of war rather than Russian politics, told Express.co.uk: “Some commentators believe the regime is about to collapse and it’s gonna be open civil war.
“I’m more sceptical about that catastrophic scenario but I agree with those commentators who are saying it’s moving us towards a post-Putin regime more quickly than we might have been.”
Asked who may replace Putin, Professor King said the events over the weekend show how unpredictable the situation in Russia is.
READ MORE: Putin spotted for first time since aborted Wagner group mutiny[INSIGHT]
However, he is rather convinced Russians won’t wake up under democratic rule any time soon.
Referring to a central square in Kyiv which in 2004 was the theatre of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution and of the Revolution of Dignity in 2013, Professor King said: “I don’t think there’s gonna be some outbreak, that this is going to be the Russian equivalent of Maidan Square, I don’t think it’s going to be some democratic transition to a sort of republic.
“I think there may well be accelerated a replacement inside the core of Putin’s circle, which was always the most likely thing.
“I can’t see a challenger coming from outside that court, even if there’s a civil war, I don’t see a challenger coming from outside that court because Putin’s acolytes have all the power and all the money and the allegiances of the armed forces.”
This comes as Russian State Duma member Andrey Gurulyov voiced on Russian TV his disagreement with the way his government handled the potential Wagner coup.
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Suggesting he is unhappy with Putin’s judgement, he said to believe “traitors have to be destroyed” and that Prigozhin should have received “a bullet to the forehead”.
Prigozhin, once a close ally of the Russian president, became a vocal critic of the Defence Ministry of his country over the past year, saying they were responsible for the losses in Ukraine and the unsatisfactory course of the war.
The feud between the Ministry and Prigozhin escalated significantly on June 10, when Wagner soldiers were told they had to sign contracts to fight in Ukraine – a move that would effectively bring to an end the mercenary group and absorb the troops into the mainstream army.
On Friday, Prigozhin claimed Russia’s Defence Ministry had carried out a deadly attack against his troops, and hours later Wagner troops entered Rostov-on-Don – a city hosting not just more than a million citizens but also a busy logistics centre for the conflict.
Prigozhin then demanded the removal of Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov under the threat of a march on Moscow.
The Kremlin appeared stunned by this fast development, and while he promised harsh punishment against “mutineers”, it was Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko who reportedly brokered a deal that prevented Wagner Troops from entering the Russian capital.
Professor King said: “The claim [by Russian experts] was effectively that, although Putin has seen off Prigozhin, the fact that he had a close relationship with Prigozhin and basically sponsored a kind of rogue agent inside his own regime calls into question his own political judgment and credibility.
“One would think was already being questioned a little bit in the light of the Ukraine war and its disasters, despite the facts Putin still has a very strong hold of power.”
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