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  • Writer's picturePeter Pomerantsev

Prigozhin couldn’t seal Putin’s fate. But here’s how all of us in the west still can

The Russian leader’s grip on power relies on fossil fuels and unchecked capitalism – we can all exploit these vulnerabilities

A Wagner fighter with a tank outside a circus in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, 24 June 2023. Photograph: Reuters

Yevgeny Prigozhin’s aborted insurrection against Vladimir Putin made for popcorn-gobbling viewing, full of social media twists and turns, as Russia’s generous collection of war criminals challenged one another. It was tempting to just sit back and gawp as Russia’s “great power” image was reduced to the photo of a tank in Rostov-on-Don seemingly stuck at the gates to the city circus. But we are not passive observers of this show: each of one of us influences its ultimate outcome.

Putin appears weaker than ever – and for a ruler who relies on projecting strength, that’s a bad look. To further dull Putin’s fading aura of invincibility, and to ultimately lead to a reversal of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we need to undermine the pillars his strongman myth is based on: colonial conquest, unregulated capitalism and climate abuse. As questions are raised about his ability to rule, Putin will claim that despite the efforts of the nefarious “collective west”, the Russian economy can stabilise because the world needs Russian fossil fuels; that the need of western companies to make money in Russia means it will never be truly isolated; that for all his blunders on the battlefield, he can still hold on to swathes of Ukraine and its resources, which he will dole out between the Russian system’s stakeholders for whom the risk of sticking with Putin will thus still be smaller than the risk of going against him.

Read the full story in The Guardian here.


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