The BBC reported that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin said, “Wagner doesn’t exist” when asked if Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group would continue as a fighting force aggressing against Ukraine. Putin set his portrayal of Wagner Group’s non-existence in the context of Russian law prohibiting mercenary armies, a law that he admittedly violated when he told the world that Moscow had bankrolled Wagner Group. That comment was meant to shame Prigozhin for what the Soviets would have termed capitalist war profiteering.
Setting aside the “little masquerade” here, what is the implication of Putin’s statement that Wagner Group does not exist? Yevgeny Prigozhin himself told Russians the truth about this last year:
“It’s either private military companies and prisoners [fighting in Ukraine], or your children — decide for yourself.”
The Russian people deserve to know that. Information spaces surrounding Russian ears could be saturated with this implication if the mil-bloggers pick it up. Enough pressure there could cause a reversal by Putin, whose “flip-flopping” will accentuate his weakness and a leadership failure that belongs to him, the siloviki, and increasingly, Xi Jinping.