The rise of an ex-con, hotdog entrepreneur, celebrity restauranteur and head of a private army (a military contractor like America’s Blackwater Group), Yevgeny PRIGOZHIN, become Putin’s right-hand and right eye is a disturbing story of how cronies and siloviki (ex-security community) have risen to the top in Russia.

It would seem that a communist dictatorship has been replaced by something worse if it is possible to conceptualise that.

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The Wagner Group has risen to fill the quality and dedication of a professional army that is lacking in a conscript army. The Russian Army today consists mostly of unwilling conscripts because of the compulsory military service required of all Russian youth.

This Russian Army is not very different from the draftee-dominated US Army serving in Vietnam. That Army mostly fought in a drug-induced haze and couldn’t match the dedication and patriotism of the NVA and Viet Cong. Just like the force conscripted, the Russian Army got sandbagged in Ukraine. Enter the Wagner Group of extra-legal mercenary volunteers. Like the Blackwaters in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In order to get large caterer and development contracts with the Russian government while assembling a mercenary force known as Wagner, the Wagner owner Prigozhin operated for several years in secret.

Later, Prigozhin emerged as a public power player after launching his forces into Ukraine, where their ranks were expanded by recruits who had been imprisoned. He does this by using social media to transform aggressive language and cruelty into his brand.

According to the experts, Moscow is currently confused about Prigozhin’s next move, along with observers seeking to understand the shifting dynamics of Putin’s Russia.

According to some analysts, he is ready to use his newfound popularity to expand his political influence and potentially even pose a danger to Putin’s empire. Others believe that  Prigozhin’s influence and popularity are limited.

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