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The “liquidated” Prigozhin led the world back to medieval warfare

Caption: ?Liquidated?  Prigozhin took the world back to medieval warfare: AP/getty/reuters

It is widely believed that Yevgeny Prigozhin was killed in an attack ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin (Image: AP/Getty/Reuters)

Yevgeny Prigozhin will go down in history as a privateer who marked a return of medieval tactics to nation-state conflicts, an expert on modern warfare has said.

Professor Anthony King described the leader of the Wagner group as a “terrible man” who represented a throwback to an earlier age of mercenary armies.

Prof. King, from the The University of Warwick also warned that the conflict in Ukraine is likely to be a protracted affair, with “unpredictable” costs for Russia and a distant victory for Kiev.

He spoke after it was reported that Prigozhin was among 10 people killed in a plane crash north of Moscow on Wednesday night, exactly two months after he called off an armed advance on the city.

The War Studies Chair told Metro.co.uk that the Kremlin had a hand in the “medievalness” of interstate warfare by using the private military contractor in Vladimir Putin’s “catastrophic” major invasion of Ukraine and other conflict zones.

“In a historical sense, this suggests a form of medievalization in contemporary warfare, in which irregular and proxy forces, privateers and warlords play an increasingly important role,” said Prof. King.

“Not only in uprisings and civil wars, but also in interstate wars.” Prigozhin is therefore an important figure in the sharp departure from 20th-century warfare. Yes, there were many partisans and irregular forces before, but the main recognized figures in 20th-century wars were state-appointed generals and national armed forces.

“The role of this terrifying individual and Wagner suggests that the return of the privateer warlord is a key component.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Russian private mercenary group Wagner, in disguise and holding a gun, delivers a speech in a desert area at an undisclosed location.  This still image is from a video that may have been shot in Africa and was released on August 21, 2023.  Courtesy of PMC Wagner via Telegram via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.  NO RESALE.  NO ARCHIVES.  MANDATORY CREDIT.

The last known picture of Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin showed him alone in a desert area (Image: Wagner Account/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
A still image posted to a Telegram channel linked to Wagner, allegedly showing the plane crash site (Image: Gray_Zone/UPI/Shutterstock)

MORE : Follow the latest information on the reported death of Prigozhin here

Prigozhin, 62, had directed an angry video broadside at two senior Russian generals before Wagner fighters made the advance that got within 120 miles of Moscow. Putin described the biggest challenge he faced in his 20-year rule as “rebellion” and “pride in the back” – but the mercenary leader was then apparently able to travel internationally.

The last known picture of Prigozhin showed him alone with an assault rifle in a desert environment, possibly in Africa.

The Russian president is now widely suspected of ordering the elimination of his former chef, whose private jet crashed near the city of Tver, about halfway between Moscow and St Petersburg.

Telegram channels close to Wagner suggested the plane, which was flying at an altitude of 28,000 feet, had been shot down, while former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele suggested a bomb hidden in a wine crate had been smuggled on board be.

In this handout image from video released by the Prigozhin Press Service on Friday, May 5, 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner group, stands in front of several bodies lying on the ground at an undisclosed location.  (Prigozhin press service via AP)

Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin lashes out at Russian generals while standing in front of bodies lying on the ground (Prigozhin press service via AP)

“All the evidence points to this plane crash being an assassination attempt by Putin, and I am sure it is,” Prof King said.

“Prigozhin seriously undermined Putin’s power and status with his June mutiny, and as we have seen over the past 20 years, people who put themselves in this position, such as Alexej Navalny are in great danger of being imprisoned or liquidated.

“On the one hand, this sends the message that Putin’s opponents will be eliminated, but it’s also no small matter that there was a mutiny against him and that he had to assassinate such a prominent figure.

“While it is an immediate sign of strength, in the longer term it could be a sign of the loss of power within the Kremlin that many were talking about when the mutiny took place.”

On the battlefield, the deaths of Prigozhin and Wagner co-founder Dmitri Utkin, who was also on board, are unlikely to change the grueling nature of the war, according to Prof. King. The author, who works closely with the British armed forces as an adviser and mentor, expects the bloody conflict to continue at least until 2025.

“This was a completely disastrous war for Putin,” he said.

“His strategic goals were to eliminate the government of Volodymyr Zelenskyy and take over at least eastern Ukraine as far as Kiev and probably the whole country.” I think it’s likely that Putin will keep part of Ukraine at enormous and incalculable costs.

“I don’t think the counteroffensive failed, but eliminating Russian forces dug into defensive positions has always been a very difficult task.”

“I think Ukraine will have some more victories, but a quick defeat of Russia is so far off that it’s almost impossible.”

Map shows route of doomed Prigozhin battle against Russia, Yevgeny Prigozhin, jet, flight route, map, moscow, tver metro graphics Credit metro.co.uk

A map showing the route of the plane that reportedly went down and killed Yevgeny Prigozhin (Image: Metro Graphics/metro.co.uk)

The Ukrainian counteroffensive is currently taking place along three “probable” axes to the east, including a push Bakhmut, the British Ministry of Defense said yesterday. Now in its third month, the push to retake occupied territories is proving difficult as Kiev forces encounter minefields and well-entrenched Russian troops.

“Ukraine has already achieved a remarkable result compared to what it expected on February 24 last year,” said Prof. King.

“Any subsequent success, as President Zelenskyy himself said, depends entirely on Western support, such as the provision of F-16 aircraft, artillery systems and the training of its armed forces.”

“The question is whether the West can provide enough support to shorten the war and make this Ukrainian counter-offensive a complete success.”

“I am skeptical as I believe there are physical, industrial and economic limits to the support that can be provided.”

“I expect it will be a long war and apart from retaking Crimea and Donbass, the realistic question is whether Ukraine can retake the city of Tokmak, which is an important goal.”

“The town of Melitopol further south presents an even more difficult target.”

“To me, this is a war between two nations that are determined to win and have many resources to fall back on, and it will likely continue at least until 2025.”

A man in military fatigues stands at an informal memorial next to the Wagner headquarters in St. Petersburg on August 24 (Image: Anton Matrosov/EPA)

This was stated by Major General Volodymyr Havrylov, Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine BBC Newsnight This week he said his homeland was weighing the lives of its troops and “adjusting” to battlefield conditions in the counteroffensive.

“Our approach is simple: we must save the life of our people and not waste it like the Russians do with their soldiers,” he said.

“For us, the value of life in our country and our culture comes first.”

“Therefore we have to adapt to the situation on the ground in terms of mines and fortifications. To adapt and adapt our tactics and our equipment. So for us, this counter-offensive is not a question of time, but a question of success. Every day, step by step, we liberate our territory. Sometimes a hundred meters, sometimes a kilometer.’

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov yesterday called the allegations that the Kremlin ordered Prigozhin’s death “an absolute lie”.

He told reporters that there had been “a lot of speculation” about the crash and dismissed “Western rumours” that Putin was responsible.

The Russian president said the investigation into the incident would be carried out “fully and to the end”.

MORE: Wagner group will be ‘decapitated’ but warmongers could keep them alive after Prigozhin

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Contact josh.layton@metro.co.uk

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