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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

"Grandpa Vlad" — Wagner Boss Prigozhin Is Now Mocking Putin Directly

Head of the Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin's furious videos have been aimed in the past at Putin's deputies and generals. Now, he's taking aim at the tsar himself.

"Grandpa Vlad" — Wagner Boss Prigozhin Is Now Mocking Putin Directly

Prigozhin makes his latest plea

Video screenshot
Pierre Haski


What exactly is Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, up to? This question has been on everyone's minds for months, but now he has truly crossed a line.

Prigozhin was already engaged in open conflict with top military brass and even the Russian Defense Minister. However, Tuesday, he launched a direct attack on Vladimir Putin himself, depicting him as a comical "grandfather" in a video meant to ridicule him. He specifically chose to do it on Victory Day, the day of the anniversary of Russia’s triumph over Nazism, just as Putin was preparing to preside over the parade on Red Square.

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In the video, Prigozhin theatrically portrays his ongoing conflict with Russian military authorities. Despite having no military background, the corpulent Prigozhin dresses in military fatigues and a bulletproof vest, with Kalashnikov magazines visibly strapped to his belly.

He narrates receiving a menacing letter from the Russian Ministry of Defense, threatening him with charges of "treason" if he were to withdraw his troops from Bakhmut, the Ukrainian city he has been striving to capture for weeks.

Prigozhin once again complains bitterly about not receiving the urgently requested ammunition from his arch-enemies within the system: General Gerasimov, the Army Chief, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

What is driving him to target Putin directly? This is where the situation gets tricky. Until now, one could have assumed that Vladimir Putin was skillfully playing the power struggles within his inner circle to his advantage.

However, Wagner’s boss claims in this video that Russian soldiers have abandoned their positions due to the "idiocy of their commanders." He takes direct aim at "grandfather" Putin, subjecting him to a series of insults. In any other conventional army, such an act would be deemed insubordination during wartime. Surprisingly, in Russia, it is not.

Russian infighting

Prigozhin undeniably occupies a unique place within Putin's realm. His trajectory is well-known, having been associated with the Kremlin leader since their shared past in St. Petersburg. Prigozhin was even known as "Putin's chef." Subsequently, his creation of Wagner, an organization involved in disinformation campaigns and employing mercenaries, further solidified his prominence.

Wagner has undeniably become one of the Kremlin's armed extensions.

This story highlights the unusual nature of this scenario. Prior to the invasion of Ukraine, Putin denied any affiliation with Wagner when speaking to French President Emmanuel Macron. However, there is no longer any room for ambiguity in Ukraine, or in other areas of conflict, such as the Sahel region of northern Africa. Wagner has undeniably become one of the Kremlin's armed extensions.

Furthermore, it sheds light on how Putin's strategic system works, and its ability to manipulate various actors. One day it's Prigozhin, the next day it's Ramzan Kadyrov's Chechen army, who volunteer to replace Wagner in Bakhmut. And then, it's the regular Russian army, leaving us wondering how it can operate amid this turbulence.

Prigozhin is often believed to have grander political ambitions, perhaps even seeking to take on the role of a tsar. This likely explains his continued attacks against his rivals. However, taking aim directly at Putin is highly unusual. The dysfunction at the highest levels of the system is both a reflection and source of Russia's challenges on the ground.

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The Colonial Spirit And "Soft Racism" Of White Savior Syndrome

Tracing back to Christian colonialism, which was supposed to somehow "civilize" and save the souls of native people, White Savior Syndrome lives on in modern times: from Mother Teresa to Princess Diana and the current First Lady of Colombia, Verónica Alcocer.

photo of a child patient holding hand of an adult

Good intentions are part of the formula

Ton Koene / Vwpics/ZUMA
Sher Herrera


CARTAGENA — The White Savior Syndrome is a social practice that exploits or economically, politically, symbolically takes advantage of individuals or communities they've racialized, perceiving them as in need of being saved and thus forever indebted and grateful to the white savior.

Although this racist phenomenon has gained more visibility and sparked public debate with the rise of social media, it is actually as old as European colonization itself. It's important to remember that one of Europe's main justifications for subjugating, pillaging and enslaving African and American territories was to bring "civilization and save their souls" through "missions."

Even today, many white supremacists hold onto these ideas. In other words, they believe that we still owe them something.

This white savior phenomenon is a legacy of Christian colonialism, and among its notable figures, we can highlight Saint Peter Claver, known as "the slave of the slaves," Bartolomé de Las Casas, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Princess Diana herself, and even the First Lady of Colombia, Verónica Alcocer.

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