Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin has started cooperating with members of the political party A Just Russia – For Truth, which could indicate aspirations to gain influence and control over the party, according to the April 10 update from the Institute for the Study of War.
ISW cited a Russian independent Meduza outlet that reported on strengthening relations between party leader Sergey Mironov and Yevgeny Prigozhin. ISW also said that Mironov’s “advocacy for recognition of Wagner in Russia could trigger further fractionalization within the Kremlin,” and is an indication of further political backing for Prigozhin.
Two Kremlin sources obtained by the ISW claim that Prigozhin aspires to obtain a leadership position within the party to gain greater influence within St. Petersburg.
The recent conflicts between Prigozhin and Russian officials make his play for political influence difficult. On April 7, the Russian Foreign Ministry (MFA) responded to Prigozhin’s criticisms of its agenda for the first time. Prigozhin’s criticized the MFA’s ability to solve problems and questioned the effectiveness of their agenda at the United Nations Security Council.
Prigozhin has also expressed discontent with Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Africa, claiming that the MFA does “absolutely nothing” to assist Wagner forces in both areas.
The MFA’s response reassured Prigozhin that they are cooperating with Russian businesses abroad and are dedicated to issues in Africa. This response marks the first time a Russian governmental institution has formally responded to Prigozhin.
The MFA’s response to Prigozhin is likely “a continuation of the Kremlin’s efforts to discredit and undermine Prigozhin,” the ISW wrote in their report. These attempts to undermine Prigozhin come as a response to his own attempts to influence foreign affairs and gain domestic political influence.
Wagner Group forces have been influential in Russia’s war against Ukraine. They have been especially present in Bakhmut, where their offensive “appeared to be nearing culmination,” according to the ISW’s earlier reports.