Vladimir Putin appears to be firmly in command and his leadership does not seem at the moment to be questioned in Moscow, even if sometimes conflicting declarations arrive from the Russian capital on the war in Ukraine, and there are episodes of intra-elitist competition, attacks on this or that ‘exponent of political or defense leaders, in the face of a clear statement by the Wagner paramilitary group. Eleonora Tafuro Ambrosetti, expert in international relations, ISPI researcher, sees the internal situation in Russia in these terms.
“I don’t think Putin’s leadership is being questioned for now,” he explains, speaking to Adnkronos. “I see some episodes of intra-elitist competition, where for example Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is subjected to attacks, or Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attacks – as he did – other members of Putin’s political circle. But the president of the Federation He still seems to me to be firmly in command”.
“We are seeing a growth in importance of the Wagner Group,” he notes, noting that “defense minister Sergei Shoigu is increasingly attacked, not only by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner, but by the head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov There is a frustration, a desire to find a scapegoat, and clearly Shoigu remains the easiest target, because indeed the difficulties encountered by the Russian army, especially after the Ukrainian counter-offensive, are many. Shoigu is a fairly easy opponent “.
“The Wagner group – explains Tafuro Ambrosetti – gains all the more importance the more difficult the situation on the ground becomes for the regular army. This is therefore not good news for Russia, because it means that we have an army in disarray, it is a confirmation of the bad state of the army. It is not good news for the world, because Wagner is not held accountable for his actions: private military companies formally do not exist in Russia, there is a legislative vacuum around this type of group. I’m not saying that the army behaves more ethically, but Wagner is even worse, and therefore we can expect more and more brutal techniques of warfare, which affect more and more civilians”.
As for Medvedev, who embodies the ‘hard face’ of Russian leaders, “he was president at a time when Russia had become very close to the West, despite the 2008 war against Georgia, which represented an important episode of friction. In general, despite this, he was seen as a progressive, modern, liberal, a proponent of the EU-Russia Partnership for modernization”.
“After Putin returned to the presidency – he continues – he remained prime minister, but he was a low profile character, he was never seen as a strong political figure. Others were the figures who also scandalized the West – such as Vladimir Zirinovsky. Medvedev wasn’t the person who was talked about in Western newspapers, now he has become one, perhaps for a type of political strategy that can bring him out of oblivion”.
“Although he continues to hold an institutional position, he is number two in the Russian security council, Medvedev -continues Tafuro Ambrosetti- has adopted a strategy that in the aftermath of the war could have political results. He embodies this hard face, of very strong criticism of the West , with challenges, open threats and sometimes sci-fi declarations that could attract the favor of a certain type of very extreme, very nationalist electorate, which has lost its key figures like Zirinovsky and could find its new leader in Medvedev”.
“Putin cannot afford this type of language, he remains a person of the institutions, he is the highest institutional office in Russia, he certainly does not have these tones. But I believe that on peace negotiations neither Putin nor Medvedev are really convinced that a negotiation can be reached: the conditions are still a long way off, those posed by the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba for the negotiations in February are unacceptable for Russia (see the International Tribunal for Russian War Crimes).It is obvious that the Kremlin will never accept, so how the Kremlin’s demands are unacceptable for Kiev. The positions are irreconcilable”.
“Putin and Medvedev have the same position. Putin’s overtures seem to me too fragile premises, moreover made in a period in which he is carpet-bombing Kherson, Bakhmut and other Ukrainian cities, with no respite for the Orthodox Christmas. Every Russian overture is little credible”.