shocking, if widely predicted, reported death Warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin marked the final chapter of the biggest threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two-decade rule. As Putin grapples with his weakening grip on power and Russia’s debilitating war on Ukraine, the hot dog seller-turned global mercenary leader’s deadly legacy is likely to echo in the years to come, as private military groups like Wagner play an ever-increasing role. Fulfilling role in conflicts around the world.

Prigozhin, who was his close associate before Putin attempted mutiny Two months ago, he was allegedly aboard his private plane when it crashed outside Moscow on Wednesday. On board were nine other senior members of the Wagner Group. mercenary organization that created Prigozhin Household Name is infamous around the world for mass atrocities to fight alongside Russian forces in several countries and most recently in Ukraine, where it sacrificed tens of thousands mercenaries as cannon fodder. In June, Prigozhin, long a vocal critic of the Russian military leadership’s performance in Ukraine, marched some of his forces towards Moscow in a spectacular but short-lived uprising.

Prigozhin explained the mutiny by saying that he was “in a state of recession” and Putin publicly forgave his mutiny in a Belarus-mediated settlement that was primarily aimed at disbanding the Wagner forces. Still, some believe that being branded a traitor by Putin, a former ally, will have no consequences – except perhaps for Prigozhin himself, who continues to move and speak with relative freedom. Earlier this week, he appeared in a form that seemed uncertain African countries claiming Wagner’s plan to “make Russia even greater on all continents”. This was his last public appearance.

Little is known about what caused the plane crash, but there is little doubt about its purpose, with some commentators describing it as “very public execution, while the US authorities have only Tentatively Following reports confirming Prigozhin’s death, President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that “there isn’t much that happens in Russia that Putin isn’t right behind.”

“I think we all realize who is responsible for this,” resounding Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also said, “Maybe it will help too.” [Ukraine] in some sense.”

For those who hoped Putin would avenge the humiliation of Prigozhin’s coup attempt, the assassination of the mercenary leader appears to be a message to others, especially Russia’s elite, who may attempt a repeat. .

“Everyone will see this as an act of retaliation and retribution, and the Kremlin will not particularly reciprocate this approach. From Putin’s point of view, as well as from the point of view of many security and military officials, Prigozhin’s death should serve as a lesson to any potential successor.” Said Tatiana Stanovaya, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center. “A lively, energetic and full of ideas, Prigozhin was undoubtedly a walking stick for the regime, symbolizing Putin’s political humiliation.”

The method by which Prigozhin was apparently killed—rather than by poisoning his food or accidentally falling from a window, rather than by shooting down his plane—both practiced methods of feuding with internal rivals for the Russian leadership – also had the effect of eliminating a potential successor to Prigozhin. Among those believed to have died in the crash was Wagner co-founder Dmitry Utkin, a former member of Russia’s intelligence services who reportedly named the group after Adolf Hitler’s favorite composer. The crash happened just hours after Russia fired General Sergey SurovikinA high-level military commander close to Prigozhin who is believed to have advanced information on the June Uprising.

But it is unclear whether Prigozhin’s death will restore Putin’s grip on power, which was publicly challenged earlier this summer.

“The Russian elite may see this as evidence not only that Putin is not strong, but that he is becoming increasingly and murderously erratic.” wrote Mark Galeotti, analyst specializing in Russian politics and security. “That he reversed course so quickly from calling Prigozhin a traitor to inviting him to his recent Africa summit to assassinating him will do nothing to help quell concerns about Putin’s mental state and grip on the system.”

Galeotti said, “The hallmark of a well-organized authoritarianism is that the regime does not need to murder insiders so openly, because they are too afraid to break the rules of the system in the first place.”

Prigozhin’s death – and Wagner’s weakening – is unlikely to have an effect on the battlefield in Ukraine, where 120,000 Russian troops and 20,000 Wagner fighters It is said that he has died. The mercenary group’s role in Ukraine diminished after the failed uprising, when its troops were redeployed to Belarus. There, they trained with Belarusian forces, a development that raised concerns among other countries in the region, who fear potential Belarusian involvement in Ukraine. In recent weeks, Wagner also indicated that it would be doubling its already established presence in several African countries, where it has committed large atrocities on civilians, Even with Prigozhin out, some analysts CautionWagner will continue to operate as long as there are commercial interests behind it.

If anything, Prigozhin’s most enduring legacy is probably the way Wagner – hardly the first The mercenary organization of our times has normalized the outsourcing of state conflict to private groups. A range of other paramilitary groups – some of which are operating effectively, if unofficially, at the behest of governments – Has increased its influence in recent years.

“The world is a better place without them,” said Jack Margolin, an analyst who has spent years investigating Prigozhin and Utkin. “Wagner would fundamentally change, but [private military companies] Not going away.”

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