Thursday, July 6, 2023

Prigozhin Mutiny Direct Result of Putin’s Destruction of Government Institutions, Zavadskaya Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 2 – The Prigozhin mutiny was a combination of rebellion and struggle among two partners in a criminal business when one finally went for broke, Margarita Zavadskaya says. As a result, the possibility of the collapse of the regime while still small increased dramatically.

            The political scientist at St. Petersburg’s European University argues that “a week ago, we watched live the tragedy of two people who had known each other for a long time, trusted each other, and were friends but between whom something went terribly wrong” (

            “One side shouted: ‘pay attention to me! I don’t agree with what you are doing and if you don’t give me what I want, I’ll take a city hostage.’” According to Zavadskaya, this was “a blackmail situation with a constant increase in the stakes” where there is “no system of checks and balances but only personal relationships.”

            There are no institutional arrangements for relations between Prigozhin and Putin to be regulated, she argues. “This is a gray area. Neither the FSB, nor the GRU, nor the regular army knows what to do;” and the fact that “everything ended exactly as it did is a random coincidence.” It would have resulted in Putin’s exit much like the Maidan did Yanukovich’s.

            The Putin regime knows how to work with opposition groups, but it doesn’t have a worked out procedure for dealing with those it believes are its allies and supporters. As a result, the Prigozhin revolt showed everything that “the situation is very precarious and unstable and that their own positions are insecure.”

            Not surprisingly, people are hedging their bets against a possible repetition. That doesn’t mean Putin’s regime will end soon. “Regimes that last as long as his has, where the leader is over 65, seldom end in coups.” But there is a struggle going on, and now everyone is compelled to see that their fate depends on how it develops.

            Zavadskaya says that “Putin is a coward: he is far more afraid for himself than is the average dictator,” and that opens the way to the possibility of unexpectedly rapid changes. What will follow him depends on what the population does as the situation spirals out of control, political science research suggests.

            “All studies suggest that the next regime, if there are no mass protests, will be yet another authoritarian system,” she continues. Initially, it may look reformist as the new crew tries to win support. But unless the population gets involved, any liberalization will be walked back as the new people consolidate power.

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