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Power struggle in the Kremlin: How Kadyrov and Prigozhin want to get rid of Shoigu and his generals

The war in Ukraine is definitely not going according to the Kremlin’s expectations. The explosion of a truck on the Crimean bridge, a strategic infrastructure for Russia, was another straw weighing on the division between different circles of power in the country.

But even if we ignore the emerging speculation that the explosion is part of the internal war between the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the army leadership (along with the leadership of military intelligence – the GRU), the cracks between the various lobbies in the Kremlin are already very clearly felt.

A particularly striking example of this came after the fall of the city of Liman in the Donetsk region, which Ukrainian forces retook on October 1. Then the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who in recent months has increasingly criticized the military leadership in Moscow, made a new batch of accusations.

“Yesterday was the parade in Izium, today is the Ukrainian flag in Liman – and what about tomorrow? Everything would be fine if it wasn’t so bad,” commented Kadyrov on his personal Telegram channel.

The Chechen leader lays the blame mostly on the commander of Army Group “Center” in Ukraine – Colonel-General Alexander Lapin.

According to Kadyrov, Lapin commanded the Russian defense forces in this area, but failed to provide his troops with the “necessary communications, feedback and arms supplies”.

The Chechen leader also pointed out that although in July Lapin was awarded the title “Hero of Russia” and a “gold star” for the capture of Lisichansk, according to him, in reality the colonel-general “wasn’t even close” to the action.

Kadyrov openly called Lapin “mediocre”, accusing him of taking advantage of being liked by the High Command. The Chechen leader also complained of “nepotism” in the military and called for “decisive measures”, including a tactical nuclear strike on Ukraine.

Photo: Getty Images

Yevgeny Prigozhin has lost much of his influence in the Kremlin in recent years, but the war in Ukraine is giving him an opportunity to regain some ground.

Almost immediately after Kadyrov’s speech, Yevgeny Prigozhin – the man behind the Wagner private military group – spoke out in support of his conclusions.

“Kadyrov’s eloquence is not my style at all,” Prigozhin wrote on the website of his Concord catering company. “But I can say this: ‘Beautiful Ramzan, keep it up!’ These punks should be sent to the front barefoot with machine guns.”

The businessman, nicknamed “Putin’s Cook”, has long been linked to supporting Wagner, but only recently admitted to the relationship. He himself was filmed recruiting prisoners for his private army to be sent to fight at the front. In return, Prigogine promises money and freedom as long as the former prisoners live and do not escape.

Although private armies themselves are illegal according to Russian legislation, no measures have been taken against the businessman, and on the contrary – the Ministry of Defense in Moscow has only begun recruiting prisoners for the front in Ukraine.

The strike, no matter who carried it out or how, raises the stakes at a time when the West worries about the possibility of Putin using tactical nuclear weapons

Beyond this activity of Prigozhin, however, investigative website Meduza notes that he increasingly expresses his approval of comments made by Chechen leader Kadyrov.

On September 24, for example, the Chechen leader demanded that 50 percent of Russian law enforcement be sent to the front, and in a comment almost immediately afterward, Prigozhin said that Kadyrov was right in his demand.

This public agreement of the two in their criticism of the military command seems to be far from accidental, the media wrote, citing their sources in the team of President Vladimir Putin and in the team of the Federal Government.

Kadyrov likes to project himself as a leader who is close to his soldiers, even if that is not always true. Photo: Getty Images

Kadyrov likes to project himself as a leader who is close to his soldiers, even if that is not always true.

According to Meduza’s sources, Prigozhin and Kadyrov belong to a radical wing of power figures at the top of the Kremlin, which insists on continuing the war with full force. They are demanding more troops at the front, more weapons and an urgent escalation of the conflict.

Beyond this, however, members of this extreme wing have their purely material reasons for criticizing the military command and the Ministry of Defence. For many of them, albeit for different reasons, current Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is a thorn in the side that needs to be removed.

The basis of the conflict between Prigogine and Shoigu can be found in two places. According to the information, the conflict between the two is about the methods that the Russian army uses in its combat tactics. The owner of “Wagner” believes that the Russian soldiers operate according to outdated methods, while his own company shows a much higher efficiency and modern organization.

Shoigu and his generals, in turn, are of the opinion that the private military companies, and Wagner in particular, are undisciplined and tend to mess things up by disobeying orders.

Beyond this difference of opinion, however, there is another misunderstanding – about money. According to one of Meduza’s sources, the two got into a rather heated argument at one of the meetings at the Ministry of Defense, after which Prigozhin began to lose a large part of the public contracts he had with the Ministry of Defense.

As for Ramzan Kadyrov, he has repeatedly pointed out that the Chechen units are fighting much better than the rest of the Russian army and are ready “to take Kyiv as early as tomorrow if Putin gives the order.”

The chance of going for a new laundromat in Ukraine, but instead coming back in a coffin or crippled, is already too great to seem like an enticing option for the Russian soldier.

This may be a gross exaggeration on the part of the Chechen leader, but his criticism of the Ministry of Defense, publicly supported by Prigozhin, has so far met with no rebuke from the Kremlin.

According to the publication, one of the reasons for this is that the president considers the work of the Chechen battalions and mercenaries for Prigozhin to be quite effective against the background of the army’s failures. According to media sources, Putin is increasingly interested in alternative methods of waging war, as well as in the people who can offer them to him.

The Russian president liked these two critics of the military command because they were “real people” and “people from the front”.

Moreover, these criticisms that Kadyrov and Prigozhin make of the generals of the army are repeated and presented to Putin by a “group of ambitious young people” from the FSB circles.

Among the most prominent figures in this group are the governor of the Tula region, Alexei Dyumin, and the former head of the Yaroslavl region, Dmitry Mironov, who is now an aide to the president. Both were part of Vladimir Putin’s bodyguard.

Alexei Dyumin was one of the promising names in defense before his conflict with Sergei Shoigu sent him out as governor of Tula OblastPhoto: Getty Images

Alexei Dyumin was one of the promising names in defense before his conflict with Sergei Shoigu sent him out as governor of Tula Oblast

In recent months, Mironov and Dyumin often meet in person and talk, this is confirmed both by sources in the president’s office and by sources in the Yaroslavl and Tula regions.

Connections can also be found between Prigogine and Dumin. Putin’s chef cooperated with the local government in Tula even before the start of the war – with services, businesses and public procurement.

Kadyrov also met Dyumin years ago when he was among the president’s bodyguards, and the two got along to the point where the Chechen leader called the security guard his “big brother.”

Currently, both Dyumin and Mironov have their own personal interests in undermining the influence of the Ministry of Defense, with the goal there being career advancement. In the past, both worked for the Federal Security Service (FSB), but also held significant positions in law enforcement.

Mironov was once a deputy minister in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, while at one point Dyumin was second in command after Shoigu in the Ministry of Defense.

However, the rift in relations between Shoigu and Dumin comes as the minister begins to suspect that his deputy is planning to take his place. This is how Dyumin was appointed to Tula.

Dmitry Mironov is one of Vladimir Putin's advisers, but according to "Medusa" he has more serious ambitions for posts.Photo: Getty Images

Dmitry Mironov is one of Vladimir Putin’s advisers, but according to “Meduza” he has more serious ambitions for positions.

Meanwhile, Dmitry Mironov is believed to be in the running for a major government post, and his deployment to Yaroslavl Oblast was intended to prepare him for the post. However, that promotion has not yet come, although he remains in the circle of advisers around Putin.

Now the two former security forces apparently feel that their time has come to shine on the high-ranking stage, and the shake-up in the Ministry of Defense that Prigozhin and Kadyrov are trying to do is a good opportunity.

Kadyrov and Prigozhin also seem inclined to support such a reshuffle because it would mean strengthening their own positions. Dyumin would be far more inclined as defense minister to give Putin’s Chef new procurements, while Kadyrov may expect the new military leadership in Moscow to step up its actions in Ukraine and launch a new offensive there.

Any use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine must be met with a decisive Western response and the definitive end of the Putin regime

However, according to Meduza, the probability of these personnel changes happening is not very high, although this is being discussed at high levels in the Kremlin.

Putin is said to still remain “conservative in his personnel decisions”, even in light of his military failures. According to some, it would be difficult for him to undertake such radical changes at a time when the Ministry of Defense is under public attack.

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