Two close allies of Chechen Head Ramzan Kadyrov have publicly clashed with Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the owner of Russian Private Military Company (PMC) Wagner.
The current conflict developed as a result of the latest criticisms that Prigozhin had levelled at the Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu, and Chief of the General Staff Valeriy Gerasimov. On 4 May, Prigozhin published a video that criticised the Defence Ministry over arms supplies and threatened to withdraw Wagner troops. His proposal to transfer Wagner-controlled positions to Kadyrov’s security services brought criticisms from Kadyrov (see 11 May edition of Threatologist Eurasia).
On 31 May, the conflict reignited when Prigozhin used his Telegram account to answer a question about whether Kadyrov’s forces could occupy the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. Prigozhin said he did not know where the forces were located, but expressed doubt that they were sufficiently strong to liberate the entire region — or whether they had even been set the task (3).
In response, Adam Delimkhanov, State Duma deputy for Chechnya and a key ally of Kadyrov, recorded his own video address, in which he said: “If there’s something you don’t understand, you can get in touch anytime and name the place where we can meet you and explain whatever it is you don’t get.” He then reiterated Kadyrov’s criticisms of Prigozhin’s criticisms of the Defence Ministry. Magomed Daudov, speaker of the Chechen parliament and another Kadyrov confidant, similarly bristled: “You needn’t know, Evgeny, about our capabilities and our goals.” He similarly offered a meeting to sort things out, man to man (4). If the subtle tone of the comments is passing you by, they can be crudely summarised as follows: “Quit your bitching or we’ll see you outside.”
Of course, the Wagnerites could not leave such comments unanswered. Prigozhin said he didn’t know what the problem was but could easily be reached. The lesser-spotted Wagner commander Dmitriy Utkin brought caps lock to the fight, criticising the familiar tone of the Chechen addresses and opining: “Certain citizens must be put up against a wall, for the shame that they brought. PMC WAGNER HAS NEVER, DOESN’T, AND WILL NOT panic.” Of course, he said he was also ready to meet in person to discuss any issues (4).
Does this dispute tell us anything new? Honestly, much less than Kremlinologists would have you believe. Prigozhin and Kadyrov, as well as prominent figures in both men’s orbit, are self-interested egoists — capable of uniting when interests align, but with no loyalty to one another the moment they collide. But that’s hardly news. Still, it’s always good to see political figures behave like distinguished statesmen, and not at all like inebriated youths on a night out in Birmingham. Leave it Zhenya, he’s not worth it.
Prigozhin subsequently declared that he would, indeed, be leaving it, and that he had spoken to Kadyrov on the phone and agreed to “put the brakes on” the conflict (5).