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Unexpected challenge of Wagner mutiny the regime managed to overcome

Unexpected challenge of Wagner mutiny the regime managed to overcome

The Kremlin attempts to portray itself as having universal support for its rule and policies, but Prigozhin’s mutiny revealed a potential fragility of the authoritarian regime as well as Russian society’s attitude towards it.

THE WAGNER MUTINY CAME AS A SURPRISE TO THE KREMLIN. Wagner mercenaries entered Rostov-on-Don without resistance and were even on the move towards Moscow. At the beginning of the mutiny, the regime propaganda and prominent regime figures refrained from making public statements until Putin publicly named Prigozhin a rebel and expressed his determination to put an end to the mutiny. The reluctance to denounce mutineers’ actions before Putin did it was likely due to the fear of misinterpreting the actions of Prigozhin, who before the mutiny had been an integral part of the regime and the main symbol of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

INSTITUTIONS OF POWER REMAINED LOYAL TO THE KREMLIN. It is likely that this was one of the reasons for the failure of Prigozhin’s mutiny. The propaganda apparatus also remained loyal, and after the revolt had failed, it tried to discredit Prigozhin without inciting hostility towards Wagner. The Kremlin’s position that it is important not to discredit the aggression against Ukraine in spite of the actions of those who took part in the mutiny but stood against the regime, is an indication that the regime is becoming a hostage of its own propaganda.

THE MUTINY CONTRADICTS THE REGIME’S NARRATIVE OF THE UNIVERSAL SUPPORT FOR THE PRESIDENT. Society remained indifferent to the unfolding events. Neither the mutiny nor Prigozhin’s death has led to an increase in civic activity or encouraged ordinary citizens to take action for or against the government. In the aftermath of the mutiny, Putin himself took part in several public appearances aimed at demonstrating his ‘closeness to the people’, but these actions have not culminated in any substantial effort by the regime to rally public support for the Kremlin.

The Kremlin remains determined to continue its aggressive policies and tighten its control over society. Public dissatisfaction with the regime’s policies is unlikely to threaten its stability in the short term. The mutiny provided an opportunity for the Russian National Guard to demand more resources. As a result, the Kremlin is now likely to increase its readiness to respond to threats of coups or mutinies. However, the crisis has exposed the fact that the centralised control system of the authoritarian regime is incapable of responding quickly to the changing situation and that unexpected challenges increase the likelihood of instability.

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