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Larry Lindsey

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Could Wagner Group’s Prigozhin replace Putin as next Russian leader?

Jun 05, 2023

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Could Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the notorious Wagner Group, be a potential successor to Vladimir Putin as Russian president? There is new speculation about Putin’s health after a recent photo revealed what appears to be a scar on his neck.

Straight Arrow News contributor Larry Lindsey says the Wagner head replacing Putin as Russia’s next leader makes a lot of sense if you understand recent Russian history.

Next March, March 2024, Russia has its presidential election. Now, it’s not exactly free and fair … but it’s still an election. And it is the way in which the Russian government changes who’s at stake. And the questions come up, well, maybe Putin could be replaced in that election. Not defeated, mind you, but he could arrange the election as a way of transferring power — sort of — to somebody else. 

He’s done that before. In 2008 after two terms, Putin turned the presidency over to Dmitry Medvedev and then became the prime minister. Four years later, Putin took back the presidency and Medvedev became head of the security council of Russia. It’s all very tidy over there, you know, keep it all in the family or the extended family, if you will.

Well, now, there’s a new name that’s being circulated. And that is, Yevgeny Prigozhin. Now, the problem with him is that he has, shall we say, a very interesting resume for someone who might be president of a nuclear power. 

Now … his current job is president or head of the Wagner Group, which is a group of brutal mercenaries, that’s warriors for hire, who’ve operated in Africa, the Middle East, and now are operating in Ukraine. His background seems almost ideal to head that kind of position. At age 18, Prigozhin was arrested for theft. He ended up being released. But then two years later, he was arrested again, for theft, fraud, and involving minors in organized crime. He was sentenced to 12 years in a maximum-security Soviet prison. 

Just after the Ukraine War started, it became the official policy of the United States to have regime change in Moscow. The president said it at least twice, his staff had to dial back from that. But we’ve gone further, we’ve done no mediation to try and end the war, we’ve labeled him a war criminal, which means we’ve got to collect them. How can you not have regime change when a war criminal is in charge? So that’s policy. Now comes a harder question. How do we institute regime change?
Well, you know, one thought is we simply march on Moscow. Well, that’s just not going to happen. That would be World War Three. We kind of hoped there would be a coup, or there were a lot of rumors created by western intelligence agencies, that Putin was very ill and wouldn’t make it anyway. Well, all of those seem less and less plausible. There is another way, though.
Next March, March 2024, Russia has its presidential election. Now, it’s not exactly free and fair … but it’s still an election. And it is the way in which the Russian government changes who’s at stake. And the questions come up, well, maybe Putin could be replaced in that election. Not defeated, mind you, but he could arrange the election as a way of transferring power – sort of – to somebody else.
He’s done that before. In 2008 after two terms, Putin turned the presidency over to Dmitry Medvedev and then became the prime minister. Four years later, Putin took back the presidency and Medvedev became head of the security council of Russia. It’s all very tidy over there, you know, keep it all in the family or the extended family, if you will. Well, now, there’s a new name that’s being circulated. And that is, Yegeny Prigozhin. Now, the problem with him is that he has, shall we say, a very interesting resume for someone who might be president of a nuclear power.
When … his current job is president or head of the Wagner group, which is a group of brutal mercenaries … that’s warriors for hire who’ve operated in Africa, the Middle East, and now are operating in Ukraine. His background seems almost ideal to head that kind of position. At age 18, Prigozhin was arrested for theft. He ended up being released. But then two years later, he was arrested again, for theft, fraud, and involving minors in organized crime. Nice guy. He was sentenced to 12 years in a maximum-security Soviet prison.
Again, this is back in Soviet Union days and I am sure they’re even less pleasant there back then than they are today. Well, when the Soviet Union turned into Russia, he was released and began his career. Now, it turns out in Russia, especially in post-Soviet Russia where things are very entrepreneurial, you can’t keep a good man down. He started as a hot dog stand operator, became very, very prosperous, branched out into grocery stores, into gambling, into construction, into restaurants, and then into the catering business. It turns out, he was the number one caterer/restaurateur in Moscow. He, for example, catered a dinner between President Ciroc of France and Putin, and President Bush and Putin. He was the go-to man. And that ended up giving him first contracts to feed schoolchildren, and then a big contract, 1.2 billion, to feed the Russian army.
With that 1.2 billion, Prigozhin went out and started the Wagner group in 2014; that’s the mercenary group. What did he do? Well, he leaned back on his experience and he went through Russian prisons and recruited prisoners to go to fight for his mercenary army, in return for which they would be released. Well, okay, what could be better? Good businessman, knows how to get criminals to stuff his army and so he’s off and running. In Russian media today, he is widely hailed as one of the heroes of the fight for Ukraine. He regularly attacks the established military leaders for not doing their jobs. He has a very populous tone, and everything he says, saying for example, “A general’s life is no more important than a soldier’s life.” Well, that’s gonna play very well. That is his stock and trade. And he is being carried widely in Russian media, which are very, very close to Putin. It wouldn’t be happening without Putin’s cooperation.
So there are two ways this could happen. He could run as Medvedev did back in 2008, with Putin there lurking in the background. Or he could run on a ticket with Putin as his intended replacement. So we look forward at some point perhaps, to having a long-time criminal recruiter of mercenaries, head of one of the most brutal mercenary groups in the world, to be head of this … of now, Russia. You know, when you want regime change, you may want to think twice, because you don’t know what the change is going to be. This is Larry Lindsey frustrate arrow News.

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