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An internal coup inside the Kremlin is reportedly in full swing as the chief of the controversial Wagner mercenary group is putting Russian president Putin increasingly under pressure to sack his Defence minister, Sergie Shoigu.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, who heads the Wagner Group, also dubbed Putin’s private army which primarily consists of mercenaries, is reportedly increasingly involved in day-to-day decision-making with regards to the war in Ukraine.
Prigozhin only answers to Putin and he claimed that Wagner forces captured Bakhmut in the east of Ukraine, not Russian forces.
Prigozhin, who only answers to the Russian president, is said to be so frustrated with the lack of progress in Ukraine that he is pressuring Putin to sack the country’s defence minister, Shoigu, according to various reports in Russia and Europe, including CNN.
Fred Pleitgen, international correspondent at the news network, reported that the Wagner mercenary group is “now the spearhead of Putin’s invading force.”
“Prigozhin is trying to oust Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu since Russia’s campaign is going badly.”
“There are a lot of people saying that Prigozhin is right now trying to orchestrate a power grab in Moscow.”
CNN correspondent Fred Pleitgen
The reports come after Prigozhin claimed that it was Wagner forces who captured the city of Bakhmut in the east of Ukraine, not Russian forces.
“I want to emphasize that there was not a single person from any other group except for the employees of the Wagner Group involved in this campaign,” the group’s chief reportedly wrote.
Responding to the reports, former CIA director John Brennan told various media that “there is some jockeying among the senior leaders of Russia to try and take command and control because they have done so poorly.”
“Putin’s options are narrowing, and Russia’s forces are doing so poorly.”
Former CIA director John Brennan
“Putin is seeing this conflict as existential to his political survival. He will not survive this if he cannot claim victory in Ukraine,” Brennan analysed.
‘Gas wonderkid’ suddenly dies
The reports come only days after it emerged that another one of Vladimir Putin’s close allies has suddenly dies.
Nikolay Petrunin, a 46-year-old Russian multimillionaire and a close confidant of the Russian president, is reportedly no more.
The official reason by authorities was that the Gazprom executive has died as a result of complications caused by Covid. He had reportedly been in a coma for several weeks.
Petrunin was one of the most important executives at energy giant Gazprom. He was also vice-Chairman of the prestigious Energy Commission of the Russian Parliament. He was considered an extremely close ally of Putin.
Petrunin was dubbed the “gas wonderkid” of Russia. He entered politics after a career of making gas pipelines in Siberia.
His sudden death raises questions, however, with many Russians discussing his death on Telegram and social media. the war in Ukraine.
Critic falls out of window
Petrunin’s death comes only five weeks after the head of Russia’s biggest privately held oil producer, who criticised the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, died after reportedly falling out of a hospital window.
Ravil Maganov, chair of the board of LUKOIL, died in mysterious circumstances, according to Russian-language site Interfax.
In a statement posted on its west to shareholders, LUKOIL’s board expressed “its deepest concerns about the tragic events in Ukraine” in March.
Shortly before his death, the US department of justice obtained a warrant for seizure of a $45m plane owned by PJSC LUKOIL.
In November 2019, Maganov was pictured with Putin at the Kremlin receiving the Order of Alexander Nevsky, a state honour.