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Putin’s Consolidated Power: A Year After Prigozhin’s Rebellion

WorldRussiaPutin's Consolidated Power: A Year After Prigozhin's Rebellion

One Year On Kremlin Leader Tightens Grip on Power Post-Rebellion

One year has passed since Russian paramilitary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin launched an audacious, short-lived rebellion that saw his Wagner mercenaries charge toward Moscow, exposing President Vladimir Putin’s vulnerabilities.

However, in the aftermath of the most serious challenge to his authority in nearly a quarter-century, Putin has emerged more secure than ever, demonstrating an unyielding grip on power.

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The Rebellion and its Aftermath

In a dramatic turn of events last year, Prigozhin’s Wagner fighters seized Russia’s army headquarters in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, downed military aircraft, and advanced halfway to the Russian capital before a deal brokered by Belarus brought an end to the 24-hour uprising. Prigozhin, once a close ally of Putin, was killed in an airplane crash two months after the mutiny.

Following the rebellion, Putin implemented sweeping measures to ensure that no one would ever be allowed the same level of autonomy as Prigozhin.

“Until Prigozhin’s rise, we did not have any cases when the commander of a strong military unit was able to have financial, political, and media resources at the same time,” said Nikolai Petrov, a fellow at the Chatham House international affairs think tank.

The unique position Prigozhin acquired before his rebellion was a costly error for Putin, leading him to prioritize control and loyalty when allocating resources.

A New Order: Control and Loyalty

The aftermath of the rebellion saw Putin take decisive steps to solidify his power. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was removed, and several senior military figures were arrested on corruption charges. Putin installed Andrei Belousov, a technocratic economist, as the new defense chief, avoiding any influential military leaders who could challenge his authority.

The reshuffle marked a significant turnaround from a year ago when Putin backed his defense chiefs despite Prigozhin’s accusations of corruption and strategic failures in the Ukraine invasion.

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This time, Putin ordered the shake-up out of necessity, not political pressure. “The fact that he’s able to take these steps and challenge the interests and livelihood of senior military figures is a mark of his strength rather than his weakness,” said Nigel Gould-Davies, senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

A Demonstration of Dominance

Putin’s power was further solidified with an 87% landslide victory in the March presidential elections, an outcome widely criticized by international observers for the absence of real opposition.

The vote underscored Putin’s ability to “concoct anything he wants and force the population to accept it,” Gould-Davies noted.

This exaggerated margin of victory was symbolic, reflecting Putin’s need to show that his popularity had soared higher than before the war, according to Petrov.

The elimination of Putin’s only real political rival, Alexei Navalny, who died in an Arctic prison colony in February while serving a 19-year sentence, further cemented Putin’s control.

“Taken together with other repressive measures and exemplary prison sentences that have been imposed on other people, he has intimidated and cowed and frightened a large portion of the population now,” Gould-Davies added.

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The Impact on Russian Society

The rebellion and its aftermath have had a profound impact on Russian society. During the June 2023 uprising, former President Dmitry Medvedev warned against Russia’s nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of “bandits,” while other regional officials issued tepid statements urging calm.

Despite the lack of widespread defiance or public outpouring of support for Putin, images from Rostov-on-Don showed residents smiling, cheering, and taking selfies with Prigozhin and his men amid the rebellion.

These reactions highlighted the lack of authentic enthusiasm for Putin or the war among the population.

“Most people just want to keep their head down, and for the war and regime not to touch them,” Gould-Davies observed. This sentiment suggests that while Putin has successfully consolidated power, genuine support for his regime remains shallow.

Strategic Moves in the Military

In recent weeks, Putin has ordered sweeping changes to Russia’s military establishment, ironically fulfilling one of Prigozhin’s pre-mutiny demands.

The removal of Shoigu and the appointment of Belousov indicate a strategic move to ensure that the military remains firmly under Putin’s control, devoid of any influential leaders who could challenge his authority.

Petrov emphasized that Putin’s current approach prioritizes direct and constant control over key players in Russia’s political and military landscape.

“Not only is ‘nobody now unloyal to Putin,’ but the 71-year-old has sought ‘direct and constant control over most important players,'” Petrov stated.

This consolidation of power reflects Putin’s determination to avoid the mistakes that allowed Prigozhin to rise to such a powerful position.

The Road Ahead

As Putin marks one year since Prigozhin’s rebellion, his position appears more secure than ever. The swift and decisive measures taken in the aftermath of the uprising demonstrate his ability to maintain control and eliminate potential threats to his authority.

However, the underlying discontent among the Russian population and the lack of genuine support for the Kremlin suggest that Putin’s grip on power, while strong, is built on a fragile foundation.

The events of the past year have underscored the importance of control and loyalty in Putin’s regime. By reshaping the military leadership and ensuring that no one individual holds too much power, Putin has reinforced his dominance.

Yet, the absence of authentic support and the underlying discontent among the populace remain potential challenges to his long-term stability.

In the face of these challenges, Putin’s ability to maintain his grip on power will depend on his continued efforts to control key players and resources while managing the delicate balance of public sentiment.

As Russia navigates the complexities of internal politics and external conflicts, the legacy of Prigozhin’s rebellion serves as a stark reminder of the risks and uncertainties that lie ahead for Putin and his regime.

 

This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members

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