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Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s death was a long time coming. In June 2023, Prigozhin led a short-lived coup, where private military company Wagner Group questioned Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government’s decisions on how they are conducting the war in Ukraine.
Over the span of a day and a half, Wagner forces left eastern Ukraine and they made their way to the Kremlin. Wagner forces engaged Russian troops, shot down half a dozen Russian aircraft, and found themselves a few hundred kilometers from Moscow. Putin demanded an end to the insurrection, and shortly after, he met with Prigozhin to discuss an end to the coup. Prigozhin called off his men, and he was sent to Belarus in exile. But it was not that simple.
Prigozhin’s death is the latest development in Russia as Putin continues to consolidate his power in the country. Over the past 19 months, the Russian government and military have seen turnover. In Ukraine, many Russian officials have been lost. To date, hundreds of high-ranking officers, ranging from lieutenants to generals, have been killed in the war. Just recently, one of Putin’s top generals “suddenly” died after battle a long illness. While the Russian Federation stated Colonel General Gennady Zhidko, the former head of Russia’s war operations in Ukraine, died from cancer, some Westerners speculated if his death was a result of natural causes.
Meanwhile, those who have not died in combat have perished by other means. Prigozhin was the latest victim, dying in a brutal plane crash. Others who have questioned Putin’s rule have mysteriously fallen out of windows from very tall buildings, or have disappeared. Those who have escaped death have been humiliated or forced out of office.
These events suggest that Putin is cracking down on his opposition. He is getting desperate, attempting to remove those who oppose him, and he is installing those who are loyal to him in prominent positions. These individuals will only serve as “yes men” to Putin, constantly validating his decisions, regardless of whether the options are misguided. Putin is working swiftly to avoid creating any power vacuums. He wants to ensure that he is entirely in charge of the Russian government and the war in Ukraine, and he will have no exceptions.
Some opponents of Putin, as well as officers, attempted to challenge Putin and the way he conducted the war, but they were swiftly removed. Installing individuals who are blindly loyal to Putin will only make the Russian invasion of Ukraine worse. They will continue to validate Russia’s war without question, and this will make Putin believe that he has legitimized his insane conquest.
To date, the Russians have lost nearly 300,000 soldiers. Tens of billions of dollars in defence equipment have been destroyed, and the Russian economy has significantly declined. Despite this devastation, Putin and his circle have shown no signs of ending the war. Instead, they are determined to continue the failed Russian invasion as this group is determined to destroy the Ukrainian state and its people.
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Surrounding Putin with those who will not question him will only further allow him to conduct atrocious acts in Ukraine. He will remain unchallenged, which will only lead to the additional loss of life in the brutal, unnecessary, and illegal invasion of Ukraine. These horrific acts have not dissuaded him or his cronies, and there is little evidence to suggest anything will change.
As a result, it is imperative for the international community to continue its support for Ukraine. The Ukrainians have done well to defend their country and slowly push the Russians out, but more can be done. Only a total victory for Ukraine will end the war. Otherwise, if there is hesitancy to challenge Putin, his inner circle, and the Russians, then the war will continue without an apparent end.
Russia’s war has led to the destruction of several cities, and there has been a tremendous loss of life. It is time for the globe to give Ukraine the tools it needs to finally win the war, and end Russia’s brutal conquest.