Letter From the Editors
Yevgeny Prigozhin’s aborted mutiny in June fueled weeks of speculation about his ultimate fate. When it finally looked like Putin had forgiven him and would allow him to go about his affairs in peace, the inevitable came to pass: Prigozhin died in a fiery plane crash over Tver Province on Aug. 23. Or did he? In an interview with Meduza, Abbas Gallyamov says we don’t have enough facts about the crash to rule out the possibility that Prigozhin disappeared on his own. However, Gallyamov argues, “This guy had so many enemies – he managed to create them on both sides of the barricades. Still, I would put Putin in first place.”
Prigozhin’s funeral was also shrouded in mystery. As Republic’s Mikhail Shevchuk takes readers on a tour of St. Petersburg’s cemeteries in search of Prigozhin’s grave, he points out that “Prigozhin was laid to rest just as he lived over the past year and a half – in special operation mode.” In fact, he says, the absence of “the official honors due to him as a Hero of Russia” speaks volumes about Putin’s view of Prigozhin: “The silence in which Prigozhin was laid to rest is quite ominous. This is a silence that radiates fear of someone who does not forgive betrayal and, at the same time, shame for one’s own fear.” When Putin finally did break his “oppressive silence” following the crash, he limited himself to just a few words: “This was a man with a complicated fate.*** He was a talented person, a talented businessman.”
This eulogy stands in stark contrast to the words Putin had for Darya Dugina after her death one year ago, when he called her loss “terrible, irreparable.” And in an interview with Izvestia, her father, turbopatriot Aleksandr Dugin, blames Ukraine and Western intelligence agencies for her assassination. According to Dugin, “The Ukrainian idea per se is pure terrorism; the embodiment of hatred, racism [and] unjustified hostility toward their brothers; a revision of all historical episodes; [and] the creation of an absolutely false, artificial, monstrous, aggressive [and] mythologized history.”
Strong words, indeed, from “Putin’s philosopher,” but Dugin might do well to recall the fate of another turbopatriot, Igor Girkin, who was recently arrested and charged with extremism. Now, a group organized to support Girkin is seeking to establish itself as a political movement – a gutsy move, considering the group’s program includes “preparing proposals on military reform and the need to reorganize the Armed Forces.” After all, it was criticism of the Defense Ministry that landed Girkin in jail to begin with.
Meanwhile, on the foreign affairs front, BRICS just wrapped up its summit in Johannesburg. According to Andrei Kortunov, the organization now faces the task of “expanding or intensifying.” Expansion, he says, “adds credibility and legitimacy to the organization, but complicates the process of reaching a compromise.” Indeed, six new members – Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – are now slated to join the group on Jan. 1, 2024. This expansion is welcome news because, as Galina Sorokina says, “BRICS***includes countries with high production, resource and human potential. Their position will become even stronger.” But expansion will also make it harder for the member countries to agree on dedollarization and certain political issues.
Whatever direction the BRICS alliance takes, Russia may have to turn to one of its members – India – for support with its lunar exploration program, which faced a major setback when its Luna 25 lander crashed during a Moon landing attempt. In an editorial, NG questions why Russia needs a lunar exploration program in the first place, suggesting that it would do better to focus on low-Earth space instead. But if Russia ever does get its lunar program off (or, as the case may be, onto) the ground, and if Prigozhin was never actually on that plane to begin with, then perhaps one day stargazers will spot him on the Moon.