Putin’s speech was a pathetic spectacle reflecting the weakness exhibited during Prigozhin’s mutiny. In a mafia state where the threat of violence determines everything, he has lost that monopoly and is temporizing. https://t.co/u24rIlrjCa
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) June 26, 2023
— Francisco Taveira (@jftaveira1993) June 25, 2023
This article is a reprint. You can read the original at The Kyiv Post.
Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP
By Jason Jay Smart
“Garry Kasparov, one of the foremost leaders of the Russian democratic opposition and human rights defenders, in an exclusive interview with Kyiv Post, analyzes what Prigozhin’s war against Putin means, how it will play-out, and what we should expect next.
Kasparov tells Kyiv Post:
“Putin was right by invoking 1917 [in his TV address on June 24]. This is clearly a 1917 situation. The war is not over but it did not go well. You have had hundreds of thousands of [Russian men] recruited, without a clear understanding of what they are doing – why are they are paying such a high price – why they have been taken away from their families.”
This coupled with the fact that, “Russia is a country with a huge social disparity. The ratio of poor to wealthy is worse than many African countries…These people have always lived under oppression,” something that is not even “about democracy,” rather “it is about them being subordinated even to the local police chief. Anyone with some power can push them around.”
Unfortunately for Putin, “Now – these people – have guns,” and “they have a charismatic leader. Ironically, Putin empowered him to bring criminals into the Army. And [Prigozhin] created a powerful army.”
This army of Wagnerites, today, says Kasparov “are seasoned warriors. Those who fought in Bakhmut have different ideas about life and death.”
“Prigozhin showed that the entire Putin Regime is just a Hollywood decoration: Where is [Chairman of the Russian Senate] Matvienko? Where is [Prime Minister] Mustian? Where are all the Ministers? Prigozhin has demonstrated that the whole system is rotten. It is a vacuum of power. You just need one push to demonstrate that.”
But will Putin fall?
“Most likely Putin is finished. The issue is that Prigozhin cannot create a government. It is a raw rebellion, and he does not have a political wing. That is the difference with 1917: Lenin had a political organization. Prigozhin does not,” which contributes to why “Russia is moving into chaos territory.”
Putin erred by “having an imperialist war without a clear message to the Russian public as to why they had to do it. Putin himself changed the reason so many times.” Now we see “the transformation – like Lenin: Transformation from imperialist war into civil war: As if he followed Lenin’s formula!”
The difference today, however, is that “unlike in 1917, [people in Russia] know about the decadence of the Russian elite. Russian peasants in 1917, in Tomsk or Penza, had very vague ideas about luxury. They knew it was different. But today they know. They watch Navalny’s movies, and right now they can do something about it. They can restore justice – or end injustice that they have suffered.”
But is it really possible to overthrow Putin?
“Now you have hundreds of thousands of armed people. Who must make a choice: Stay with Putin or join the rebellion. But why stay with the regime?”
Kasparov recalls that, “Yesterday, when the [Russian Army] generals showed up to condemn Prigozhin – I spoke to my friends, ‘Look it is not about generals. Of course, generals will condemn Prigozhin as they are beneficiaries of Putin’s mafia system.’ Rather, it is what the [normal guys] will do. And we got an answer this morning: They are changing sides.”
However, if the average Russian looks out his window and sees tanks and explosions – is it not warranted that they are afraid?
The average Russian “should be afraid. But there is nothing they can do. If you’re an average Russian citizen, you are stuck with a regime that is collapsing. It is like a dinosaur, this regime; it is a huge mass with little brains. When a dinosaur dies, it falls over and anything standing next to it will be crushed.”
Is Prigozhin a “good guy?”
“Prigozhin is a charismatic criminal. Is he worse than Putin? No, they are the same. But the Putin regime brought us to this disastrous state. The only way to the future is to see what will happen when this regime collapses.”
So, what should Prigozhin do?
“Prigozhin’s rebellion was forced by Shoigu. Shoigu wanted to beat Prigozhin by bureaucratic means. [Shoigu insisted] that all private military groups had to be brought under subordination [under Shoigu] by July 1. Which means Prigozhin would be at Shoigu’s mercy, and he would end up in Bakhmut, or elsewhere on the front line, by July 2. Rather than accept this fate, Prigozhin decided to fight back.”
Insisting that, “It is not about the opinion of generals. During a time of uncertainty. orders from the top are not being executed by subordinates.” Which is why today, “the Russian military is divided into two categories: Those who fought in Ukraine and those who did not.”
Rather, the question is, will “those who fought in Ukraine shoot at Prigozhin’s men? It would seem many do not want to as they fought shoulder-to-shoulder together” and that is why “those who did not fight in Ukraine are irrelevant.”
In the case of Wagner specifically, “I think of these criminals: they are seasoned warriors who are ready to die, unlike the Rosgvardia [Russian National Guard] that has never faced such a task. One fighter from Bakhmut worth 50 [untested Russian National Guard] from Omsk.”
There are reports that Putin has left Moscow: Does Putin realize that the situation is out-of-control?
“I think so, clearly: Putin took a night and half a day to respond. He spent hours without being able to find words.”
“Putin was supreme authority – but now we see he is no one. It took him ten hours, even more – just to make his statement. But it seems too little too late,” moreover, “it is unclear if he has resources to fight back.”
What we are seeing in the Kremlin is not shocking to Kasparov as “This is how dictatorship functions: Where you have absolute authority. Like a supreme judge. If Goring is quarrelling with Himmler, then the Fuehrer is the absolute authority. You can’t imagine them fighting and Hitler hiding in his bunker.” And now, “Prigozhin’s Telegram has said that Putin chose the wrong side and soon [Russia] will have a new president.”
Will the Russian democratic opposition support Prigozhin?
“We are not planning to support Prigozhin – he is a criminal…Dictatorship that stays around too long works out poorly. It is the illusion of stability. This is what happened with Khadafi. If you let him turn his country into a political desert…What animals live in a desert? Scorpions, rats, snakes…
So, what’s next?
Kasparov is clear on this: “The fall of Putin is inevitable. He has lost his aura of invincibility and as a supreme leader.””