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The death of Prigozhin backfires for Putin as the only ally in Europe now under threat

Experts warn that the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin could ultimately backfire on Vladimir Putin and cost him his closest ally in Europe.

Prigozhin died along with his right-hand man Dmitry Utkin after their plane crashed in a field shortly after departing Moscow on Wednesday.

The death of the head of the Wagner group caused great grief throughout the mercenary group and sparked speculation about the organization’s future.

A large group of the mercenaries were forced into exile in Belarus after an attempted mutiny in June – although reports have since surfaced suggesting President Alexander Lukashenko expelled them after the Kremlin failed to pay for their stay.

Top opposition leaders in Belarus are now closely watching how the situation will unfold, hoping to use the uncertainty to destabilize Putin’s close ally.

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Franak Viačorka told Newsweek: “Most likely, Putin will try to add Wagner mercenaries to the Russian armed forces or liquidate the organization entirely, which could potentially open up some windows of opportunity for Belarus.”

Viačorka is the main political adviser to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leader of the Belarusian opposition who was forced into exile after challenging Lukashenko in the 2020 presidential election.

He continued, “Wagner’s presence in Belarus was an anchor of Russian control over our country and an imminent threat to both our sovereignty and that of our neighbors.”

The activist said the opposition is staying in touch with its local whistleblowers and is coordinating with the Ukrainian government to discuss the impact of Prigozhin’s death on his country’s future.

He added: “We are also working with our partisans here. So far we have not planned any practical activities.”

The comments come just days after Poland’s President Andrzej Duda confirmed that Moscow had started moving some short-range nuclear weapons to neighboring Belarus, a move he says will transform the region’s security architecture and the NATO military alliance as a whole .

Both Putin and Lukashenko said last month that Moscow had already shipped some of its tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus after announcing the plan in March. The US and NATO have not confirmed the move.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned Moscow’s rhetoric as “dangerous and ruthless” but said in July that the alliance had seen no change in Russia’s nuclear stance.

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