Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is probably not dead or jailed after recently staging a short-lived mutiny against Russia’s military — and if he were, Russian President Vladimir Putin wouldn’t be keeping it a secret, according to a former United States Army general.
“I don’t see any evidence that he’s been killed,” retired US Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Ryan told Insider on Wednesday of Prigozhin, adding that he also does not suspect the financier and founder of the Russian paramilitary group to be currently locked up.
“What’s the point of doing that and not saying that you’ve done that?” said Ryan, who served as the defense attaché to Russia for the US.
Ryan explained that in the aftermath of Wagner’s brief armed rebellion, Putin “looks weak,” and if Prigozhin was tossed in jail or dead, it would actually make Putin appear “stronger” to make that known.
“It would look like [Putin’s] got it under control,” Ryan said. “If he had him killed, he can do that. He’s done it, of course, or he’s allowed it to be attempted on other people.”
“But the big names, the big faces,” Ryan said, “Generally don’t get killed because they made some sort of threat.”
Still, Prigozhin’s whereabouts remain unclear as he has essentially vanished from the public eye amid the Kremlin’s attempt to curb the fallout from his revolt last month.
“It is true that we really don’t know where Prigozhin is or what his situation is,” Ryan said. “We are getting bits and pieces from different people, not from Putin directly and not from Prigozhin directly.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters this week that Putin met face-to-face with Prigozhin and his commanders on June 29, five days after Wagner’s rebellion. However, no photographs or videos of the meeting have been released.
Peskov said that during the meeting, Putin “gave his assessment” of Wagner’s actions on the battlefield in Ukraine amid Russia’s war with the country “and the June 24 events,” while also hearing out Wagner’s explanations for the mutiny.
“The commanders themselves presented their version of what happened. They underscored that they are staunch supporters and soldiers of the head of state and the commander-in-chief, and also said that they are ready to continue to fight for their homeland,” Peskov said.
It’s possible Prigozhin could be headed for jail at some point, but what seems more certain for Prigozhin’s future is that he won’t have the power he previously had, Ryan told Insider.
“Certainly in his future is not having the power that he had before,” Ryan said.
The retired US Army surmised that it is most likely the Kremlin is keeping Prigozhin, a billionaire businessman, around while it “dismantles” Prigozhin’s vast empire.
“They need him to do it,” Ryan said.
“It’s easy to kind of fall into the Hollywood version of what might have gone down, but the reality is much more pragmatic here,” Ryan said. “You kill somebody when that’s what you have to do. Otherwise, there’s ways to use them.”
Feature Image: Leaked photos showing Yevgeny Prigozhin wearing various disguises. (NEXTA TV Twitter)
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