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Sunday News Notes:
- Founder of Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, challenges Putin.
- Prigozhin praised Ukrainian president, Zelensky, on his social media platform.
- “Although he is the president of a country that’s hostile to Russia right now, Zelensky is a strong, confident, pragmatic and nice guy,”
- In a second post, Prigozhin followed up with a warning: “Don’t underestimate him.” The second post was described by the Telegraph as “explaining why he was offering such a discordant view of” Zelensky.
- Prigozhin holds no formal role with the Russian government, but his position has increased in importance as he has funneled more and more soldiers into Ukraine fighting for Russia.
- His statement is not in line with the Kremlin presentation of Zelensky as a drug-addled Nazi. And, it is not the first time Prigozhin has challenged Putin. Earlier he questioned the military’s conduct of the war.
- The Washington Post reported that Prigozhin along with Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen leader, has become more vocal in their criticisms of military leaders prosecuting Putin’s war.
- According to the Telegraph: “British lawyers McCue Jury and Partners on Tuesday announced they were bringing legal action against Wagner for “terrorism” in Ukraine, aiming to claim compensation for victims of the mercenary group”
- Prigozhin was filmed in September of 2022 recruiting soldiers in Russian prisons. He promised them they would be freed is they survived six months in Ukraine. He also promised they would be shot if they tried to desert.
- “In another public message, he defended recruiting rapists and murders on the basis that it meant “your sons” would not be sent to the front. Weeks later Putin announced a mobilisation that has sent around 300,000 extra men to war.”
- Telegraph: “The Institute for the Study of War in its latest report on Tuesday said that Mr Prigozhin was “establishing himself as a political force, using his popular status and his affiliation with Wagner to criticise his opponents within elite circles”.
- In testimony to British parliament on Tuesday, Russian dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky confirmed reports of Mr Prigozhin’s special place in Putin’s court, describing him as a “significant tool for the Kremlin”.
- “The number of meetings with the dictator is the only currency that’s in demand in that regime, and Mr Prigozhin has got a lot of those meetings,” said Mr Khodorkovsky, who was released after a decade in Russian prison in 2013, and was formerly the country’s richest man.”