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Russia

Three Lessons From Wagner's Insurrection — None Are Good News For The Tsar

The fate of Prigozhin, Putin and Ukraine hang in the balance. And though much is still not clear, Russia is simply no longer under the reign of an all-powerful Vladimir Putin.

A tank in the streets of Russia.

A tank in the streets of Russia during the Wagner insurrection.

TASS via ZUMA
Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

The dramatic events that shook Russian President Vladimir Putin's power for a few hours this weekend still have more secrets to reveal — and the shock wave could be felt for weeks and months in unexpected ways.

At this point, we can draw at least three lessons from the events that have ushered Russia into a new era.

First, we must address Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, the anti-hero of this episode. While historians may struggle to define him, they will at least agree that he was a creature of Putin and that he escaped the president's control by seeking to become the master of the game himself.

When Putin talked about a "stab in the back" in his Saturday morning address, he was describing the betrayal of a man who owes him everything but violated the golden rule of the leader's relationship.

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Prigozhin gained confidence by offering Putin his only victory of the year in Bakhmut, Ukraine — albeit at the most barbaric human cost. But Prigozhin engaged in a power struggle with Moscow's military leaders and lost. What will remain of Prigozhin and Wagner when the dust settles? It's not certain that they will carry much weight. One does not challenge the Tsar without being sure of winning— that is the first lesson.



Pyrrhic victory for Putin

What about Putin? That remains the crucial question. Putin is undoubtedly weakened by this crisis. It's true that he held onto power, that there was no civil war and that Moscow remains under control. But it is only a Pyrrhic victory.

For more than 20 years, Putin's power has been built on the myth of the strongman. He did not establish a modern state but rather created a "system" based on the redistribution of income, a multifaceted security apparatus and an authoritarian state that allows little room for dissent. What remains of it today?

By challenging him, Prigozhin — the man who does the dirty work, the mercenary leader and mastermind behind troll farms pushing disinformation — showed that the emperor had no clothes. Juggling between Wagner, the Chechens and other factions within his own army, Putin has lost control.

This vulnerability adds to his failures during the war in Ukraine and reveals a vulnerable Putin, forced to barricade himself in the Kremlin — not against NATO, but against his own creation. It will leave scars, perhaps even fatal ones.

\u200bA screenshot of a video depicting Yevgeny Prigozhin during the rebellion.

A screenshot of a video depicting Yevgeny Prigozhin during the rebellion.

Pool /Wagner Group/Zuma

What it means for Ukraine

What impact does all this have on the war in Ukraine? That is the third lesson: for a moment, Ukrainians believed that a miracle had arrived, that a civil war in Moscow would divert the Russian army elsewhere. That was not the case.

Still, the impact of this crisis on the military remains elusive. What has become of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov, who have been largely unseen? What is the impact of Prigozhin's accusations, claiming that it was not the threat from NATO that triggered the invasion of Ukraine, but rather the generals' greed?

It's too early to tell, but all this confirms, once again, that this war was the most serious mistake of Putin's reign, and it reinforces the West's decision to support Ukraine.

What happened this past weekend was Russia's worst crisis in 30 years, and it is far from over.

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Economy

Senior Influence: Why Some Brands Are Finally Dropping Ageism In Their Advertising

As the number of people over the age of 65 increases, some global brands are taking steps to reduce ageism in advertising, both for ethical and business motivations.

image of an old woman

An advertisement for Zara

Ethic

MADRID — Elderly people still rarely appear in advertising — and when they do, they are usually represented either in a stereotypical or a pejorative way.

But advertising experts say the tables are turning. Although still rather limited, initiatives that defy such ageism and age discrimination are beginning to pop out.

Marc Compte, professor of Information and Communication Sciences at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), gives as an example campaigns such as #AWorld4AllAges, launched in Nov. 2021 by the WHO with the support of the 194 member states of the organization.

The aim was to change the way people think, feel and act regarding age and aging.

“It was a turning point,” Compte says. Two other recent campaigns featured older actors: the first by L'Oréal on social media, which included a dozen influencers between 45 and 84 years old, and Zara in summer 2023, with 67-year-old actress Ángela Molina.

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