Christo Grozez, Bellingcat’s lead Russian investigator, has claimed that Vladimir Putin’s grip on power is far from secure. Mr Grozez told the Financial Times that the Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin could launch another coup against the Kremlin. He famously predicted Mr Prigozhin’s previous coup attempt back in January, suggesting that the Wagner chief would turn on Vladimir Putin within six months.
Bellingcat is an investigative group that has exposed numerous Russian plots and assassinations during the war in Ukraine.
The previous botched attempt at a revolt on June 23 ended when Mr Prigozhin called off his forces’ advances amid a brokered truce from Belarus.
The investigator said: “Putin went on TV and called Prigozhin a traitor. Everyone knows what they do with ‘traitors’ and Putin hasn’t done that. He wants to see him dead. He can’t do that yet.
“In six months Prigozhin will either be dead or there will be a second coup.”
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Mr Grozez said that the next coup will be led by elites unhappy with the state of the war in Ukraine.
He suggested that a “reversal of fortunes on the frontline” could be the ultimate trigger.
The investigator told the FT: “I don’t think any part of the elite, except in the military-industrial complex, sees any sense for them in this war.
“But they’re not speaking out because it’s a prisoner’s dilemma. They don’t want to be the first ones to move or the only ones.
“It could go one of two ways.
“Either the prisoner’s dilemma can be broken, or they will just get rid of him through a better-coordinated coup.
“You don’t have that yet among the oligarchs, or with any of the ministers, or the FSB.
“But it is unpalatable for the rest of the elite to live in a North Korea 2.1 with their bank accounts frozen.
“Other triggers could happen. Say a reversal of fortunes on the frontline.”
This comes as a leading US think tank suggested that President Putin’s deal to stop the Wagner coup was “collapsing”.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said that Wagner forces were returning to Russia from Belarus and were expecting new commands imminently.
The ISW wrote that President Putin has “failed to decisively resolve” the fallout of Wagner’s June rebellion.
The think tank said that “the main Wagner forces will ‘activate’ at the end of August”.
It added: “Bringing them back to Russia poses challenges if Putin seeks to eliminate the Wagner threat.”