A Russian opposition politician has claimed Ramzan Kadyrov, the Head of the Chechen Republic and a long-time Putin ally, could face the same fate as Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin should his criticism of Russia’s Defence Ministry continue.
Former Russian MP Dmitry Gudkov, 43, who is staunchly against the war in Ukraine, told anti-Kremlin outlet Nexta this week he suspects Kadyrov’s position as ‘Putin’s bloodhound’ may be threatened.
Drawing comparisons between Prigozhin and Kadyrov, Gudkov pointed out that the Chechen leader regularly praised the mercenary chief’s work in Russia and accused the Russian military proper of incompetence on several occasions.
Kadyrov also has his own private army and has sent several Chechen units to fight in Ukraine – echoing Prigozhin’s deployment of Wagner mercenary fighters – some of whom have reportedly clashed with regular Russian army units.
Ramzan Kadyrov pictured with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in June
Ramzan Kadyrov, Head of the Chechen Republic
Russian opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov
‘There will be conflict with Kadyrov, I’m sure. Because Kadyrov is one of the biggest opponents of Russian statehood.’ Gudkov told Nexta.
‘Kadyrov has his own army that is well prepared. And Kadyrov has great influence outside of the security apparatus. The inner tension is getting bigger and bigger.’
Putin has so far managed to integrate the Chechens into the Russian power structure, with Kadyrov as their top representative.
But, as Gudkov argues: ‘Putin has stopped playing the referee between different Kremlin factions. More precisely, he can no longer cope with this role. The conflicts are penetrating the outside world.’
Gudkov’s comments come as The Moscow Times reported Putin has ‘ordered the secret services to prepare for the threat of a new military insurgency’, per sources inside the Kremlin.
There is concern that Wagner hardliners blame Putin directly for Prigozhin’s death and are planning to seek retribution.
There were signs of a mass security operation being put in place at Serafimovsky cemetery in St Petersburg where low-key funerals of at least some Wagner figures were reportedly starting today.
‘Tanks approaching less than 125 miles from Moscow made an indelible impression on Vladimir Putin, who ruled for more than two decades,’ said The Moscow Times.
‘Prigozhin not only defied the army command, but also disobeyed a personal order from the president, and therefore was considered a threat to the regime,’ four sources told the outlet.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Omsk Region Acting Governor Vitaly Khotsenko at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia August 28, 2023
Yevgeny Prigozhin plane crashes in Tver region, Russia, on 23 August 2023
Members of the Wagner Group military company guard an area as other load their tank onto a truck on a street in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, Saturday, June 24, 2023
A flag bearing the logo of private mercenary group Wagner flutters above a portrait of late head of Wagner paramilitary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin at a makeshift memorial in Moscow, on August 27, 2023
Putin wants to see Wagner mercenary army disbanded even though it was his invention, deploying his once loyal henchman Prigozhin as its head.
In future all members of private military companies like Wagner must declare allegiance to the Russian state – and Putin.
‘Many members of Wagner believe that the authorities may be behind [Prigozhin’s death],’ said Oleg Ignatov, an analyst at the International Crisis Group.
‘And the authorities cannot ignore such risks.’
This comes as the Kremlin is preparing to rig next year’s Russian presidential election to ban youthful rival candidates who would make the dictator, 70, appear like a ‘grandfather’.
Another extraordinary report from independent media outlet Meduza indicates Putin is – illegally – banning any young candidates from next March’s Russian presidential election when the dictator will be 71, and seek a six year term taking him to the age of 77.
One prominent rival candidate, imprisoned Alexei Navalny, 47, was this month jailed for an additional 19 years – preventing him from posing any political threat to Putin.
Only stooge candidates will be allowed after ‘vetting’ by Putin officials.
People stand next to an informal street memorial for Wagner Group’s military group members killed in a plane crash
A woman lays a candle at a makeshift memorial for late head of Wagner paramilitary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, in Moscow
Another younger candidate Vladislav Davankov, 39, vice-speaker of the Russian parliament, faces being banned because he is seen as too youthful.
‘An energetic young candidate might make the voters think about the president’s age,’ said the report.
A source said: ‘This wouldn’t be a flattering contrast.’
Two Kremlin insiders told Meduza that ‘politicians younger than 50 were deliberately excluded from nomination, since a younger candidate on the ballot might make the voters pause and wonder if the 70-year-old Putin is still the same person ”who came to power with a firm hand”.’
Putin’s main rival is expected to be Gennady Zyuganov, 78, Communist Party leader.
He will pose no threat to Putin because ‘he won’t attract any new voters beyond his existing ossified electorate’.
A younger Communist candidate has been banned from standing.
Another rival is expected to be Leonid Slutsky, 55, leader of the ultranationalist Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia, accused by female journalists of being a sexual predator.
He is seen as a ‘serious man in a suit’ yet his ‘personal ranking is low’ and he will pose no threat to Putin.
In the 2018 presidential election, glamorous TV star Ksenia Sobchak, 41, also known as Putin’s ‘goddaughter’, stood against him.
It is unclear if she will do so again.
She has known Putin since she was a child, and he attended her baptism, but she has liberal credentials.
Yet she poses no serious threat to him, scoring less than two per cent of the vote.
Despite rumours of ill-health, it appears Putin has no intention to quit and intends to remain in the Kremlin for life.