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Prigozhin’s Treason Is Unacceptable No Matter One’s Opinion Of The Special Operation
Many Non-Russian Pro-Russians in the Alt-Media Community might have sympathized with Prigozhin’s harsh criticisms of the special operation after Russia’s setbacks last year in Kharkov and Kherson Regions, not to mention the grinding Battle of Artyomovsk, but that’s no excuse for what he did. Prigozhin could have operated within the law to push through his envisaged reforms via Wagner’s nationwide “Second Front” media campaign that he initiated a month ago, but he chose force instead.
President Putin accused Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin of committing treason in his national address on Saturday morning after the latter launched an armed coup attempt the night prior. He called on all the participants to immediately cease their anti-state criminal activities and condemned them for taking up arms against their comrades. Their betrayal is made all the worse, President Putin said, by it happening amidst the NATO-Russian proxy war in which their Motherland is fighting for its very existence.
The culprit claims to be acting in defense of Russia’s national interests in the context of that aforesaid conflict, but his cause doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The Wagner-Defense Ministry (DM) rivalry has been escalating since early May after Prigozhin’s allegations that the military establishment hasn’t waged the special operation properly and was purposely withholding ammo from his group. Despite his accusations, Russia emerged victorious in the Battle of Artyomovsk, which cast doubt on his narrative.
In the aftermath, the DM mandated that all private military companies (PMCs) sign contracts with it, which Prigozhin adamantly refused to do. This was the first time that he was openly placed on the opposite side of President Putin, who told war correspondents earlier this month that “if there is no contract with the state, no contract with the Defence Ministry, there are no legal grounds for receiving social guarantees from the state. This must be done as soon as possible.”
Rubbishing Speculation About Prigozhin’s Relationship With Putin
Up until that point, speculation swirled about whether Prigozhin had the Russian leader’s approval for his furious rants against the DM, which violated legislation that strictly prohibits defaming the armed forces. The conjecture at the time was that President Putin was indirectly relying on the Wagner chief to put pressure on leading military officials to optimize their conduct of the special operation since many wondered why Prigozhin hadn’t been apprehended or at least charged after his inflammatory attacks.
Whatever may or may not have previously been the case is no longer of relevance after President Putin made it clear that his former chef has committed treason and must be stopped due to the threat that he poses to their Motherland’s unity during this time of existential conflict with the West. Prigozhin’s armed coup attempt is a stab in the back exactly as the FSB described it as and risks Kiev reviving its failed NATO-backed counteroffensive like the DM said that it already unsuccessfully tried to do Friday night.
The Difference Between Contrarian Opinion & Anti-Russian Propaganda
Many Non-Russian Pro-Russians (NRPRs) in the Alt-Media Community (AMC) might have sympathized with Prigozhin’s harsh criticisms of the special operation after Russia’s setbacks last year in Kharkov and Kherson Regions, not to mention the grinding Battle of Artyomovsk, but that’s no excuse for what he did. Prigozhin could have operated within the law to push through his envisaged reforms via Wagner’s nationwide “Second Front” media campaign that he initiated a month ago, but he chose force instead.
Some of the elite were already warming up to the idea of comprehensively improving Russia through long-overdue and gradually implemented reforms as evidenced by him being named trendsetter of the year during the latest St. Petersburg International Economic Forum earlier this month. Had Prigozhin remained committed to the Russian Constitution, then there’s a very real chance that he could have eventually generated enough support to see some of his proposals promulgated into policy.
He regrettably went rogue, however, which was likely due to two so-called “trigger events”: the previously mentioned requirement for all PMCs to sign contracts with the DM and President Putin’s recent signals that he’s interested in politically resolving the proxy war if Russia’s security is ensured. The first was already touched upon while the latter was analyzed at length in this piece here, which cites his own words from the official Kremlin transcripts of three relevant events earlier this month.
Returning to those NRPRs from the AMC, they’re entitled to disagree with President Putin’s newly implied approach towards this conflict, but they become enemies of Russia when they question the patriotism of those like him and Foreign Minister Lavrov who are arguably in favor of this nowadays. Prigozhin has repeatedly agitated for escalating his country’s special operation, which aligns with some of his compatriots’ views, but it’s treason to take up arms against the state in pursuit of this agenda.
A Painful Fact-Check Of A Viral Alt-Media Article
It's at this point that a painful fact-check has to be carried out against a popular AMC influencer who published a piece last month chock-full of falsehoods that in hindsight contributed to misleading countless NRPRs about the state of affairs in Russia. Pepe Escobar’s article from 12 May for the Strategic Culture Foundation titled “Cries and Whispers Along the Russian Watchtowers”, which went viral after being republished by ZeroHedge, recklessly speculated about the loyalty of leading Russian officials.
He divided them into three categories: “the Victory party; the ‘Peace’ party – which Victory would describe as surrenders; and the Neutral/Undecided”, with the second-mentioned “Peace” one being framed unfavorably due to the innuendo that they want Russia to “surrender” to the West. It’s now obvious as was argued several paragraphs above that President Putin, Lavrov, and many other top officials can be included in this ignoble category with all that Escobar ominously implied that it entails.
At the time, his categorization of the Russian elite was already extremely scandalous after he baselessly questioned FSB Director Bortnikov’s patriotism by placing him in the “Neutral/Undecided” category and then described Russia’s top domestic security official as a “special bone of contention”. This served to discredit the man who’s responsible for the safety of over 145 million people by implying that he might support “Peace”, which Escobar already wrote is associated with “surrender[ing]” to Russia’s enemies.
The Soft Power Consequences Of Reckless Speculation
Many NRPRs in the AMC look to this influencer for guidance about Russia, especially after he was feted by its elite during his last two trips there, which made them think that he’s the so-called “voice of Russian insiders”. Escobar extended credence to this false impression by referencing his alleged “sources” in other articles and social media posts. As a result, many well-intended but naïve folks wrongly mistook his speculation about Russian officials as fact, including about Bortnikov.
Had it not been for Prigozhin’s coup attempt, Escobar’s words wouldn’t have been exposed as only being his personal opinion but would have continued to be seen by many as reflecting the views of “Russian insiders” after they came to regard him as their “voice”, the falsely impression of which he cultivated. The FSB’s accusation that the Wagner chief stabbed Russia in the back, and President Putin’s subsequent description of his actions as treason, prove that Bortnikov and the Russian leader are on the same side.
As can now be seen, Escobar’s placement of the FSB Director in the “Neutral/Undecided” category that he implied amounts to “surrender[ing]” to Russia’s enemies and his description of Bortnikov’s patriotism as a “special bone of contention” couldn’t have been further from the truth. This AMC influencer’s discrediting of Russia’s top domestic security official ultimately misled countless NRPRs during the most sensitive moment in Russia’s domestic political history since the Constitutional Crisis of 1993.
Without a formal mea culpa unambiguously setting the record straight about this ultra-sensitive issue and taking full responsibility for the consequences that his reckless speculation, it wouldn’t be surprising if Escobar isn’t welcomed back to Russia after everything settles down. Whatever his intentions may have been in writing what he did, which were presumably “innocent” unless proven otherwise, he inflicted enormous damage to Russia’s objective national interests and must thus profusely apologize.
Those like President Putin, Lavrov, and other leading officials who are interested in politically resolving the NATO-Russian proxy war if their country’s security interests are ensured should never have been associated with “surrender[ing] to the West in the first place. Escobar’s false framing of this policy option poisoned it in the minds of many and indirectly extended credence to Prigozhin’s treasonous coup attempt that was partially launched on the basis of opposing this pragmatic scenario.
What the Wagner chief did is unacceptable, as was Escobar’s twisting of NRPRs’ perceptions about the patriotism of those who explore a political solution to this proxy war instead of further escalation. Nobody in the AMC should be misled by either of them into supporting Prigozhin’s coup attempt. The Russian state is united and all efforts to divide it, whether by force or reckless speculation, will fail. Prigozhin’s fate is sealed, but Escobar’s reputation can still be salvaged if he repents and makes amends.