Putin Tightens Control Over Wagner Group After Prigozhin’s Death

Russian President Vladimir has ordered the members of the , a private military company, to sign an to him and the Russian , following the of its founder and leader, Yevgeny , in a plane .

Prigozhin, who was also known as “Putin's chef” for his catering and close ties to the Kremlin, was reportedly killed on Wednesday along with 10 other people, including several Wagner commanders, when their plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Zhukovsky International Airport. The cause of the crash is still under , but some sources have suggested foul play or sabotage.

Prigozhin was the main financier and organizer of the Wagner Group, which has been involved in various conflicts and covert operations around the , such as in Syria, Libya, , Sudan, Central African Republic, and Venezuela. The group has been accused of human rights violations, crimes, and mercenary activities by several governments and organizations.

Putin has denied any official links or responsibility for the Wagner Group, claiming that it is a private entity that operates independently from the Russian state. However, many and experts have argued that the group is in fact a proxy force that serves Putin's interests and agenda, especially in regions where wants to exert its influence and challenge the West.

By ordering the Wagner members to swear an oath of allegiance, Putin is apparently trying to tighten his control over the group and ensure its and obedience. The oath, which was published by the Russian media outlet RBC, states that the signatories pledge to “faithfully serve the President of the Russian Federation and the Russian state”, to “ its sovereignty and territorial integrity”, to “obey orders and commands without question”, and to “keep state secrets”.

The oath also warns that any violation or betrayal of the oath will result in “severe punishment”, including “death”. The oath is reportedly mandatory for all current and members of the Wagner Group, and must be signed by September 1.

The oath is seen by some observers as a sign of Putin's insecurity and paranoia, as he fears losing control over his private army and facing potential challenges or threats from within or outside. Some also that Putin may be preparing for a possible military escalation or intervention in Ukraine or elsewhere, and wants to ensure that his forces are ready and loyal.

The death of Prigozhin also raises questions about who will replace him as the leader and financier of the Wagner Group. According to some sources, Prigozhin had appointed his son-in- Dmitry Utkin as his successor before his death. Utkin is a former Russian military officer who founded the Wagner Group in 2014 and served as its first commander. He is also known by his call sign “Wagner”.

However, other sources suggest that Utkin may not have enough authority or resources to take over the group, and that he may face competition or opposition from other Wagner commanders or factions. Some also doubt that Utkin has the same level of access or influence as Prigozhin had with Putin and other Russian officials.

Another possible candidate for Prigozhin's replacement is Mikhail Potepkin, a Russian businessman and politician who is also involved in the Wagner Group. Potepkin is a member of the Russian parliament's upper house, the Federation Council, where he represents the Republic of Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. He is also the owner of several media outlets and companies that have been linked to Prigozhin and Wagner.

Potepkin is considered to be one of Prigozhin's closest associates and allies, and has reportedly accompanied him on several trips and meetings with foreign leaders and officials. He is also believed to be involved in managing and funding some of Wagner's operations abroad, especially in .

However, Potepkin may also face challenges or from other Wagner members or rivals, who may not or respect him as much as Prigozhin. He may also have difficulties in maintaining or expanding Wagner's activities and contracts without Prigozhin's connections and reputation.

The future of the Wagner Group remains uncertain and unpredictable after Prigozhin's death. The group may continue to operate as before under a new leader, or it may undergo changes or divisions that could affect its and role. The group may also face more scrutiny or pressure from international actors who oppose its actions and presence around the world.


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