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Prigozhin watch: it gets weirder

Founder of Wagner private mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Founder of Wagner private mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin.


Just five days after Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin led his mutinous march towards Moscow, Vladimir Putin met with him and 35 of his lieutenants at a secret Kremlin meeting.

That’s according to Putin’s own spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, who said on Monday that Prigozhin had used the occasion to explain his grievances about the Defense Ministry while also swearing eternal loyalty to the Russian Cza-, er, President.

If true, the entire Prigozhin story just got even stranger. Recall that on the day of the mutiny, Putin called Prigozhin-- whose men shot down several Russian military aircraft on their otherwise easy march towards Moscow — a traitor. In Putin’s Russia that charge normally ends in arrest or worse, not a business lunch with dozens of your friends hosted by the Kremlin.

Meanwhile there is still no clarity about where Prigozhin and his men actually are — Belarus? Russia? More to the point, while Putin and his media outlets have for good reason continued to demonize Prigozhin to the general public, the warlord himself seems to still be a free man. Or — to be more precise — he is still a man about whom there has been no announcement of arrest or liquidation.

What to make of all this? On the one hand, it hardly becomes a strongman to meet with a traitor who has led a mutiny. But on the other hand, allowing Peskov to mention the meeting at all — even two weeks later — is a signal that Putin now feels firmly enough in charge again to allow it to be known that this meeting took place. Whether his perception is correct is another matter entirely. In all, we’d wager that even stranger things will come to light in the next few days.


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