Putin’s Gangs Shake Hands But Highlight Infantile Weakness

Barry Gander
9 min readJun 5

Lately headlines have appeared about a childish squabble between the leaders of two gangs of Putin’s fighters.

This has nothing to do with fighting a common enemy, unless that common enemy is another member of Putin’s gang called the Military.

The heads of the Private Military Company (PMC) Yevgeny Prigozhin and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov have settled their dispute and promised to behave better. But the dispute itself is a showcase for Putin’s weakness in Ukraine: he has no idea of how to mobilize unified support to fight the scale of war he has started.

The rift was visible in fact early on in the campaign, when Putin’s “special military operation” began to slow down. Strongmen like Putin’s friend Yevgeny Prigozhin and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov pushed themselves to forward in Putin’s circle, offering solutions.

Neither of them holds an official position in the defence structures, but they have come to play a leading role on the battlefield and in setting strategy. Certainly they appear able to publicly criticize the military establishment, in a way that would not be tolerated in a more direct dictatorship like China.

Kadyrov, who took over as head of the Chechen Republic in 2007 following the assassination of his father, commands his own armed forces in Ukraine. He is the only regional leader to do so. His fighters were deployed in conflicts in Georgia and Syria. He now has a force of 12,000 Chechen troops in Ukraine, but that may be diminishing amid signs of re-grouping in Chechnya.

He came into conflict with the Russian military command when Ukraine launched a successful counteroffensive. He spoke about the reality of the Russian army’s retreat and pointed a finger at the Central Military District commander Colonel-General Alexander Lapin, who was subsequently removed from his post.

Prigozhin in the meantime has claimed responsibility for tactical gains around Bakhmut area; these expand his influence and maintain a place at the command table as his forces withdraw to rear areas to replenish after the bruising battle. He had been making daily complaints about the shortage of ammunition his men faced. He went so far as to accuse the Defence Ministry of trying to…

Barry Gander

A Canadian from Connecticut: 2 strikes against me! I'm a top writer, looking for the Meaning under the headlines. Follow me on Mastodon @Barry