Yevgeny Prigozhin and Igor Girkin are likely competing for favor with the same pro-war nationalist patronage networks within the Kremlin that outspoken nationalist politicians represent, the Institute for the Study of War said in their latest update.
The think tank has previously assessed that the Russian nationalists are split among three distinct groups that pursue different objectives while unilaterally criticizing the Russian Ministry of Defense. Those include Russian or proxy veterans, nationalists with their own private forces, and Russian military bloggers, as well as war correspondents.
Warlord Girkin represents the veteran faction due to his connections with veteran organizations such as the All-Russian Officers Assembly, while Prigozhin, the founder of the private military company, the Wagner group, is a self-proclaimed nationalist with access to a parallel military structure. "While both have avidly denied their political aspirations in Russia, they have continued to criticize the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Kremlin in an effort to boost their prominence in Russian society against the backdrop of Russian military failures," the ISW said.
The experts also note that Prigozhin may have attempted to undermine Girkin to gain influence in the nationalist space while simultaneously but not necessarily intentionally discrediting one of the most prominent Putin critics.