Prigozhin’s dead, but is Putin’s authority strengthened after plane crash?

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Andrei Kurshin, who ran the popular independent Telegram channel “Moscow Calling,” was arrested this week for the “public dissemination of knowingly false information about the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,” the state news agency Tass reported Thursday. He faces up to 10 years in jail, it reported.

And Last month saw the arrest and imprisonment of former army officer Igor Girkin on charges of inciting extremism. The prominent ultranationalist and commentator on the war had accused Putin of weakness and indecision in Ukraine.

Girkin nonetheless spoke out from behind bars. Late last month in a Telegram post laced with irony, he described Putin as gullible and “too kind” before suggesting that he planned to against him in next year’s election, in which Putin is expected to seek six more years in power.

Several hours after Prigozhin’s death, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is serving 30½ years in prison on charges he says are bogus, commented in a statement published via his legal team. “It is precisely from these ingredients that the dish called ‘civil war’ is made,” he said.

Such fears are worsened by reports that Ukraine is retaking key towns and villages in the south of the country, including the settlement of Rabotyne in the Zaporizhzhia region, as small bands of fighters drive toward the Azov Sea.

Further victories like this could present a risk to Putin, as could infighting within the armed forces, which was visibly highlighted by Prigozhin’s revolt, Ramani said.

“Another risk is the ongoing division between the rank and file of the military — the conscripts and the junior officers — and their senior officers, on everything from the rigidity of the command structure to lack of food and lack of uniforms,” he said.

In recent weeks, Russians have also seen the war reach residential areas of Moscow for the first time, with a series of drone attacks on buildings in the capital.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, Prigozhin’s death is seen as a demonstration of Putin’s power and a paranoid attempt to quash all opposition.

“Usually, demonstrative murders like this are evidence that the system is starting to destroy and eat its own because it’s overly suspicious,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Thursday in an interview with TV Rain, an independent Russian channel based in the Netherlands.

“Putin has demonstrated that he will question the loyalty of any member of his entourage, even those closest to him,” he added.

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