Vladimir Putin’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu could be ousted from his post – but not in a decision led by the Russian leader, according to CNN. Instead, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group, has launched a campaign to oust Mr Shoigu in a dramatic power-grab inside the Kremlin. The Wagner Group is often nicknamed Vladimir Putin’s private army since Mr Prigozhin is believed to answer directly to the Russian leader.
The internal coup would be a significant sign of power from Mr Prigozhin, whose private paramilitary force has been the only Russian unit to make advances in Ukraine in recent days.
This week, Mr Prigozhin personally boasted that the Wagner forces captured Bakhmut in the east of Ukraine.
He posted on social media: “I want to emphasize that there was not a single person from any other group except for the employees of the Wanger Group involved in this campaign.”
CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen said that Wagner is “now the spearhead of Putin’s invading force” in Ukraine.
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Discussing the power grab inside Moscow, Mr Pleitgen said: “There are a lot of people saying that Prigozhin of the Wagner Group is right now trying to orchestrate a power grab in Moscow.
“He is trying to oust defence minister Sergei Shoigu since Russia’s campaign is going badly.”
Former CIA director John Brennan agreed with the assessment and said: “There is some jockeying among the senior leaders of Russia to try and take command and control because they have done so poorly.
“Putin’s options are narrowing, and Russia’s forces are doing so poorly.
“Putin is seeing this conflict as existential to his political survival. He will not survive this if he cannot claim victory in Ukraine.”