Prigozhin’s public calls for ‘urgent Stalinist repression’ sowing fears in Putin’s elite – media reports

9 November 2022, 12:57 PM
Evgeny Prigozhin and Vladimir Putin (Photo:Reuters)

Evgeny Prigozhin and Vladimir Putin (Photo:Reuters)

The rise of outspoken hardliners in the Kremlin is alarming insiders fearful that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin will heed calls for even more confrontation abroad and sweeping repression at home, the Bloomberg news agency reported on Nov. 8.

Senior business executives and government officials have watched with growing worry as players they once considered marginal, such as Yevgeny Prigozhin, known for his Wagner mercenary company and recruiting of prison inmates to fight in Ukraine, have become the public forces behind Putin’s push to step up his increasingly all-encompassing war effort.

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Prigozhin’s public calls for “urgent Stalinist repression” against business tycoons who aren’t sufficiently enthusiastic about supporting the war effort have led some rich Russians to fear for their own safety and that of their families, Bloomberg said.

Prigozhin’s open attacks on top military commanders – some of whom have been subsequently removed – and a prominent Putin ally who is governor of St. Petersburg have added to worry within the bureaucracy about the Kremlin’s unwillingness or inability to defend its own.

With Kremlin officials now describing the invasion of Ukraine as a “people’s war,” hearkening back to the Second World War rhetoric of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, a few insiders even say they fear the purges and arbitrary arrests of the Soviet dictator’s rule may not be far behind.

One senior official likened the current situation to a military dictatorship but without the military coup that usually precedes it. The dominant emotion now is fear, insiders said. All those interviewed for the Bloomberg article spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the risk of reprisals, Bloomberg said.

The deepening alarm about the outlook so far hasn’t coalesced into anything like internal resistance to Putin’s continuing escalation, according to insiders. Many in the leadership support what they see as an existential fight for Russia’s future and see no alternative but to keep boosting the pressure until Ukraine and its allies in the United States and Europe back down.

However, nearly nine months of fighting has only hardened the view among many in the business and economic elite that Putin’s invasion was a catastrophic mistake that will doom the country to isolation and weakness. Even within the government, many quietly oppose the fight but are too terrified to speak out, according to people close to the leadership.

Insiders describe the Russian president as increasingly isolated, surrounded by a small group of hardliners and impervious to critical views.

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