According to Christo Grozev, head of Bellingcat's Russia investigation team, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin may face one of two outcomes within the next six months: either his death or the start of another, better-coordinated, rebellion.
The investigation team is known for exposing Russian plots and assassinations through open-source methods. In an exclusive interview with The Financial Times, Grozev pointed to escalating tensions between Prigozhin and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who branded Prigozhin a traitor on national television.
“Everyone knows what they do with ‘traitors’, and Putin hasn’t done that. He wants to see him dead [but] he can’t do that yet. In six months, Prigozhin will either be dead or there will be a second coup. I’m agnostic between the two but I can’t see neither of these happening,” Grozev predicted.
The journalist highlighted a growing disinterest in the ongoing war in Ukraine among Russian elite factions, except for those within the military-industrial complex.
“I don’t think any part of the elite, except in the military-industrial complex, sees any sense for them in this war,” Grozev explained.
At the same time, he also acknowledged the prisoner’s dilemma at play, where elites are hesitant to be the first to act or rebel individually.
“They’re not speaking out because it’s a prisoner’s dilemma. They don’t want to be the first ones to move or the only ones.”
Grozev touched upon two possible scenarios that could lead to another rebellion in Russia.
“Either the prisoner’s dilemma [will] be broken, or they will just get rid of [Putin] through a better coordinated coup. You don’t have that yet among the oligarchs, or with any of the ministers, or the FSB [Russia’s security service].
“But it is unpalatable for the rest of the elite to live in a North Korea ‘2.1’ with their bank accounts frozen. Other triggers could happen – say a reversal of fortunes on the frontline.”
Grozev also said that Putin seems to be trying to keep the war going until after the US presidential election, hoping for reduced Western support for Ukraine following a potential victory by Donald Trump.
Back in March, four months before the attempted Wagner mutiny, Grozev predicted that Prigozhin had ambitions of assuming a key role within Russia's political landscape.
“Wagner's boss dreams of heading the headquarters and it is important for him to get a political role in the Russian Federation, and if an 'accident' happens to him, the mercenaries will go to the Kremlin.”
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