Russia and Ukraine: Who are Putin's allies criticizing the Russian military machine?

 Russia and Ukraine: Who are Putin's allies criticizing the Russian military machine?

The Russian military leadership has been sharply criticized for the failure of the war in Ukraine.

Among these voices criticizing the Russian leadership, two stand out in particular: Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and founder of the Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin, and here are the reasons why these two voices are so important.

An unexpected union

Neither Kadyrov nor Prigozhin officially head any Russian military or law enforcement agencies, nevertheless, they were allowed to criticize the commanders of the Russian army in one form or another and even express their opinions to each other.

The war in Ukraine has destroyed the image of the Russian army as an effective and well-managed force, and this image has begun to shake since the leadership failed to fulfill a promise, which was broadcast on state television, to take control of Kyiv within three days, before its withdrawal from the country. vast areas of Ukrainian territory. General Sergei Surovkin, who was recently appointed commander of Russian troops in Ukraine, can no longer claim victories since the achievements of his troops are nothing more than the bombing of Ukrainian power plants.

But the simple fact that these two men did not remain silent and expressed what could be perceived as an unprecedented manifestation of disloyalty suggests that Vladimir Putin takes their opinion into account.

A good example of this is the fate of Colonel Alexander Lapin: according to widespread information, Lapin, one of the main Russian commanders in Ukraine, was removed from office at the end of October.

Interestingly, just two days before his dismissal, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov called him "incompetent" and blamed him for the recent defeats of Russian troops, in particular the capture of the Ukrainian city of Liman in early October. The Chechen leader said on social networks that General Lapin should be stripped of his rank and "sent to the front as a private."

"He should be forced to wash away his shame with blood," Kadyrov said sternly.

Yevgeny Prigozhin joined Kadyrov in criticizing the Russian leadership, he toured Russian prisons and recruited convicts to participate in hostilities in Ukraine. Naturally, this kind of influence cannot be obtained by anyone without the permission of the highest level. He even went so far as to congratulate the President of Ukraine, Vladimir Zelensky, calling him "a strong, confident, practical and beloved person."

Who are Prigozhin and Kadyrov

Yevgeny Prigozhin was originally known by the nickname "Putin's chef", as he was a supplier of dishes and drinks for official events in the Kremlin.

He is a businessman from St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, and it is rumored that he has known Vladimir Putin since the 90s when Putin worked at the mayor's office and often visited his restaurant, which is popular among local officials.

In 2010, several press investigations linked Prigozhin's name to the so-called "troll factory" in St. Petersburg, a disinformation unit that participated in the creation of content aimed at discrediting the Russian political opposition on the Internet, positively characterizing the Kremlin.

And in 2016, according to an investigation conducted by the director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Mueller, the troll factory was part of Russia's attempt to interfere in the US presidential election. But Prigozhin later denied any connection with the troll factory, but he came back and recently reported: "We interfered in the US elections, we always interfere, and we will continue to interfere, carefully, precisely and in our own way, and we know exactly how to do it."

For many years, he also denied his ties to the Wagner Group mercenary recruitment company Wagner Group. Wagner first appeared in eastern Ukraine in 2014, and his fighters later appeared in Syria and a number of African countries.

Prigozhin recently admitted that he was behind Wagner's company, which has established itself as one of the most effective Russian units in the war in Ukraine.

He has also been in public conflict with the Governor of St. Petersburg, Alexander Beglov, for years and even went so far as to accuse him of "helping the Ukrainian army."

Few of Putin's allies are as loyal to him as Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, whom the Russian leader elected head of the Autonomous Republic of the North Caucasus Region in 2007.

In the nineties, Chechnya unsuccessfully fought for independence. Under Kadyrov, all attempts to achieve Chechen independence were suppressed, while human rights deteriorated, and the Kadyrovtsy special police unit was accused of widespread violations.

Kadyrov has been an outspoken supporter of the Russian invasion of Ukraine from the very beginning, sending military units of the Kadyrov militia and claiming that they are among the most well-trained, brave, and ruthless troops of the Russian occupation forces.

Kadyrov's men may be ruthless, but some commentators have called them "TikTok" troops because they seem more interested in posting videos of their exploits on social media than in actual combat.

Human rights activists claim that a significant percentage of Chechen soldiers were recruited against their will after their families were threatened with blackmail or physical violence.

As a sign that the Kremlin appreciates his loyalty, the Chechen leader was promoted and received a higher military rank.

Why two men are important

Kadyrov and Prigozhin had never thought about being allies before, but lately, they seemed to be quite harmonious.

The Chechen leader called the St. Petersburg businessman "a warrior by birth," and his mercenary Wagner - "brave patriots of Russia." Prigozhin, in turn, responded with a compliment, saying: "Ramadan, you are beautiful!", This is included in one of his social media postings.

Both men criticize the military establishment in the person of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, his deputy and Chief of the General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov. In an atmosphere of bringing to the fore and shaming those responsible for the failures in Ukraine, perhaps this is their chance to gain more influence.

Commentators believe that neither the Chechen leader nor leader Wagner has sufficient independent weight. They are not very popular with official political elites and are perceived as outsiders or foreigners. But if they join forces, they can challenge personalities from President Putin's inner circle.

The way Kadyrov and Prigozhin behave is unusual for a country at war: "it seems that the Federal vertical of Power created by President Putin does not work effectively where it is most necessary, namely in the Armed Forces," says Russian political analyst Abbas Galyamov.

Galimov describes the atmosphere of "chaos" when the commanders of different military units quarrel and do not fight as one team.

Experts of the American Institute for the Study of Wars believe that there are two main factions in President Putin's inner circle: those who support ending the war to save assets frozen due to Western sanctions, and those who support its continuation.

These two men want the war to continue. Perhaps this is a message that the Russian leader would like to hear, and therefore he might prefer to keep them even closer to him.

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