50 friends of Putin and the curses of Prigozhin: who among the Russian military criminals will survive to the tribunal?

Despite the widespread Western narrative about “Putin’s war,” the Kremlin’s terrorist network includes dozens of individuals. This refers to those who are directly involved in waging the war and facilitating its support by as many people as possible. Therefore, not only Putin should be held accountable at the tribunal for these crimes. However, the question remains as to who will survive to face trial and who will share the fate of Prigozhin.

Yevgeny Prigozhin ended his life ignominiously – he was removed, apparently on the orders of Vladimir Putin. Although the leader of the Wagner Group was close to the Kremlin and a friend of the dictator himself, who had been financing Prigozhin’s terrorist activities for almost 9 years. Thus, the Kremlin demonstrated that anyone can be eliminated, causing unease among those close to Putin.

Despite Prigozhin having long fallen out of Putin’s circle of friends, the Kremlin’s dictator still relies on numerous individuals who support his actions. They provide him with full support, especially in committing war crimes. So, who does Putin rely on, who will follow the path of Prigozhin, and who will make it to the tribunal — can be found in the material from 24 Kanal.

In June of this year, the International Centre for Ukrainian Victory published its report on the war in Ukraine, in which, among other things, a network of Russian terrorists — the closest circle around the dictator Putin was revealed. This includes oligarchs, propagandists, political and military figures of the Kremlin, as well as heads of special services.

This list contains over 50 names — security officials, government officials, monopolists, business people, ideologues, and collaborators in the occupied territories. Therefore, 24 Kanal presents to you a list of the most influential friends of Putin and their prospects to follow the fate of Prigozhin.

Expendable assets for the Kremlin: the fate awaiting collaborators

The weakest among Putin’s friends are collaborators — individuals who have absolutely nothing without the support of the Kremlin, and furthermore, they face the prospect of lifelong imprisonment in Ukraine since they are citizens of Ukraine, even if they believe that “Russia is with them forever.” However, they will only face responsibility if they survive, and their chances are slim.

The main collaborators in the Kremlin are 5 individuals – Leonid Pasichnik in Luhansk, Denis Pushilin in Donetsk, Yevgeny Balitsky in Zaporizhzhia, Vladimir Saldo in Kherson, and Sergey Aksyonov in Crimea.

The closest among them to Putin are those who were with him before the full-scale invasion — Pasichnik, Pushilin, and Aksyonov. One step closer to the Kremlin than them is Dmitry Kozak — the deputy head of the administration of the Kremlin dictator, who effectively serves as an intermediary between them. However, in Putin’s game of “the great land collector,” the collaborators are nothing more than pawns. For example, the plays involving the “people’s republics” were nothing more than a means of pressuring Ukraine, which later became a pretext for the full-scale invasion.

Many of the minor collaborators already indulge in the songs of Joseph Kobzon, particularly Kirill Stremousov — Saldo’s deputy. By the way, according to one version, he was deliberately eliminated for several reasons, the first being that he became inconvenient and unnecessary. Just a few days before the liberation of Kherson, he was claiming that the Ukrainian Armed Forces would not enter the city. Therefore, the operation to eliminate him forced the adherents of the “Russian world” to forget Stremousov’s words, mourn for him, and not mention what he had said.

However, for the main collaborators who were shouting “Russia” in the Kremlin last September, the fate of either Stremousov or the agents of the “Russian Spring” in 2014 should serve as a lesson. Girkin-Strelkov, the man whose actions ignited the war in Donbas on behalf of the Kremlin, is now behind bars. Following him, the so-called “people’s governor” Pavel Gubarev was also detained. By the way, the whereabouts of the latter are currently unknown.

Collaborators are expendable assets for the Kremlin, and they likely realize the precariousness of their positions — one wrong step, and the next stop could be the same fate as Kobzon’s. Generally, they are in the worst position among all those close to Putin.

Propagators of lies and the chief ideologues of the Kremlin

If the world is said to stand on three pillars according to ancient legends, then in the realm of ideology and propaganda of Russian imperialism, there are as many as four pillars.

The first is the Valdai Discussion Club — a platform for Russia’s propaganda and its ideas, where Putin has been coming in recent years to nostalgically remember the USSR, blame the collective West for all troubles, and make his statements.

The second pillar of lies and propaganda, however ironic it may sound, is the Russian Orthodox Church and especially its leader, Patriarch Kirill, who in his “popular” sermons argues for the importance of the genocide of Ukrainians and the destruction of Ukrainian nation as such, while also blessing Russian military for war. Kirill is a close friend of Putin, which is not surprising, as propaganda through the lens of religion — perhaps the best and most effective way of spreading ideas. Russians not only support the war but also believe in its sanctity and that it is in accordance with God’s will.

By the way, Kirill, also known as Vladimir Gundyayev, worked as a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church at the World Council of Churches in Geneva in the 1970s, where he spied for the KGB. Agent Gundyayev operated under the alias “Mikhailov.”

For now, Kirill does not display anything that could be called defiance against Putin, so at least in the near future, the fate of Prigozhin is not looming over him. However, a church tribunal seems to be the most realistic option for him, as demanded by the clergy in Ukraine.

The third pillar is Yury Kovalchuk — the owner of the largest propaganda television channels in Russia. His media empire includes the National Media Group and its channels — REN TV, Channel One, 5TV, Izvestia, and other propaganda resources. Additionally, he essentially serves as a “personal banker” and advisor to the dictator through the bank “Russia,” which is owned by Kovalchuk and has been sponsoring Putin since the early days of his dictatorship.

And the fourth pillar — so to speak, the executors. These are essentially propagandists who disseminate criminal ideas, justify the destruction of Ukraine, and invent fakes that only intensify the bloodthirstiness of Russians and increase the level of war support. The main faces of Russian propaganda include:

  • Konstantin Ernst — TV presenter and CEO of Channel One.
  • Margarita Simonyan — propagandist and head of Russia Today channel.
  • Alexander Dugin — propagandist and ideologist of the “Russian world”.
  • Vladimir Solovyov, Olga Skabeeva, Yevgeny Popov, and others.

What are the chances for the war ideologists to survive until a tribunal? Doubtful. All the mentioned propagandists, except for Dugin, consider themselves journalists. This is already a red flag, as journalists in Russia can be eliminated, especially if they are not aligned with the regime.

See also: The foundation is crumbling. Is Russia ready to remove Putin?

But still, they are far from being journalists. However, other mysterious, or rather explosive, things happen with propagandists. Confirming this are Darya Dugina and Vladlen Tatarsky, who have long been enjoying the hits performed by Kobzon. For example, the mentioned Simonyan now walks around with personal security everywhere, fearing that she will be “blown up by Ukrainian agents.” Apparently, the position of propagandists is somewhat similar to that of collaborators. As they say, “the anticipation of punishment is worse than the punishment itself,” so we wish her to continue in the same spirit.

Powerless power in Russia and retribution for Kadyrov

A cohort of individuals who skillfully mimic having real power in Russia is continuing the ranking, yet in reality, it does as ordered by the Kremlin. We’re talking about Russian politicians and government members:

Mikhail Mishustin — Prime Minister, overseeing the “development” of the occupied territories.

Yury Trutnev — Deputy to Mishustin.

Konstantin Chuychenko — Minister of Justice.

Valentina Matviyenko — Chairwoman of the Federation Council, who advocated for the vote to allow the deployment of Russian troops on Ukrainian territory.

Vyacheslav Volodin — Chairman of the State Duma.

Anton Vaino — Chief of Putin’s administration.

Sergey Kiriyenko — Deputy Chief of Putin’s administration.

Elvira Nabiullina — Head of the Central Bank.

Alexander Beglov — Governor of Saint Petersburg.

Sergey Sobyanin — Mayor of Moscow.

Dmitry Medvedev — Former President and Deputy Chair of Russia’s Security Council.

24 Kanal would like to focus separately on two particularly intriguing personalities. The first of them is Sergey Lavrov, who has been the head of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for 19 years. Lavrov has justified Russia’s actions on the international stage, including the war against Georgia, the annexation of Crimea, the war in Donbas, the war in Syria, and the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Lavrov is also actively involved in discrediting Ukraine and justifying Russia’s war crimes. He fully carries out what the Kremlin commands him to do. Therefore, Joachim von Ribbentrop, who was the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Third Reich, was executed after the Nuremberg Tribunal.

The President, Prime Minister, and Foreign Minister are the only officials who have international criminal immunity, and an order from The Hague is required to hold them accountable. Another intriguing character is Ramzan Kadyrov, who is also part of the ruling cohort supporting the war. Unlike Matviyenko, Mishustin, or Volodin, he wields real influence, not least through his own mercenaries from Akhmat. Kadyrov leads the occupying administration of Ichkeria, where Moscow invests significant funds to create a deceptive image of prosperous living in Russia and portray Moscow as a liberator.

Kadyrov has a significant flaw — he supported Yevgeny Prigozhin. You can argue that during the Wagner Group uprising, he backed the Russian government and even sent his mercenaries to Rostov-on-Don, a city captured by the Wagner Group. However, there are a few “buts” to consider.

Firstly, the Kremlin did not forgive Sergey Surovikin for his support of Prigozhin, even though during the coup, the general armageddon who headed Russia’s Aerospace Forces publicly urged the Wagner Group members to stop.

Secondly, Kadyrov’s mercenaries took so long to travel to Rostov that the coup there had already ended, and Prigozhin had left the city on his own. This can be explained by their reluctance to engage in real clashes with Prigozhin. This is also indicated by Kadyrov’s post, which he published after Prigozhin’s death, where he referred to him as his friend who “hadn’t seen the full picture of what was happening” in the last months.

Currently, there are no public indications that Kadyrov has fallen out of favor with the Kremlin, but this is not surprising since public conflicts would lead to tension in Ichkeria, which the Kremlin wants to avoid at all costs. However, it’s worth remembering that there have been multiple reports in the media about Kadyrov being ill, so it’s quite likely that the Kremlin could use this story to eliminate him, making everything appear as natural as possible.

Who Prigozhin will take: Putin’s allies in Russia’s security structures

Undoubtedly, one of Putin’s main pillars during the full-scale war is the military leadership and the overall security structures. In their report, ICUV analysts highlighted 12 names, but after the plane crash in the Tver region, the name of Yevgeny Prigozhin can be crossed out.

The story of Prigozhin is absolutely illustrative, as just last fall he and his PMC Wagner received full carte blanche from the Kremlin — terrorists were allowed to recruit prisoners into their PMC, and the Ministry of Defense provided the necessary weapons. Moreover, the front line in the Bakhmut area became Prigozhin’s responsibility zone, and his mercenaries stormed the city. And as a result, his plane mysteriously crashed exactly two months after the coup began.

But Putin still has 11 other pillars in the security structures. For example, the Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov is Putin’s ally, who investigated the murder of opposition figure Boris Nemtsov (no wonder the masterminds were never found, right?). Additionally, the former Prosecutor General Yuriy Chaika, who still holds significant influence among security personnel, now represents Putin in the North Caucasus region.

Another support for Putin is the head of the main department of the Russian General Staff, Igor Kostyukov, and the Chief of the General Staff, Valery Gerasimov. The latter is the author of the so-called Gerasimov doctrine regarding military actions against other states, and currently, he commands the occupying forces in Ukraine. Also, the list of Putin’s allies among security officials includes former Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov, Interior Ministry Chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev, and the head of the National Guard, Viktor Zolotov.

The head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergey Naryshkin, after the start of the full-scale war, is arguably the only person facilitating communication between Russia and the United States. This is largely through meetings or telephone conversations with the CIA director, William Burns. According to one version, Burns who conveys signals of warning to the Kremlin through Naryshkin, particularly concerning the use of nuclear weapons, which would have dire consequences for Russia.

The current Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, along with Valery Gerasimov, will likely be among the key accused at the tribunal after Putin. They will only be able to avoid this if they don’t outlive him.

Shoigu, despite being a civilian, wears a military uniform and medals, commands the army, and does everything to conduct a criminal war. Interestingly, last spring, he seemingly fell out of favor with Putin due to the failure of the blitzkrieg in Ukraine. It’s hard to explain the sudden disappearance of Shoigu and Kostyukov for over a month. According to previous versions, they were poisoned. Shoigu, in particular, has a good chance of becoming a scapegoat since he is frequently blamed for all the failures of the Russian army. The Kremlin might use this to maintain Putin’s ratings and authority in Russia.

Nikolai Patrushev, the Secretary of Russia’s Security Council, is a figure who has been working with Putin since the beginning of his political career up until today. It was he who facilitated the Security Council’s decision to recognize the pseudo-republics in Donetsk and Luhansk, which Russia later used as a pretext for invading Ukraine. Patrushev, along with Putin, is accused of the assassination of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in the United Kingdom — at that time, Putin’s close associate was the director of the FSB. By the way, Putin himself also headed this organization during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin.

After Patrushev, the position of the head of the FSB was taken over by Alexander Bortnikov. According to reports from The Times, Bortnikov and Patrushev were the main architects of the war, and they convinced Putin to initiate a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Kremlin’s wallets and Putin’s chief financiers

Support for the Kremlin regime, and consequently the war against Ukraine, is provided by large companies whose owners are Putin’s associates. For example, the Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs, headed by Igor Shuvalov — formerly a personal aide to Putin.

Equally significant to Kremlin policy is the support for Gazprom, through which Moscow has exerted pressure on Europe for years, especially after the start of the full-scale war. The head of the company is Putin’s associate, Alexey Miller — the effective organizer of the gas wars against Ukraine during the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko.

Among the corporations supporting Putin are also Rostec, led by the company’s CEO, Sergey Chemezov, Rosneft, with Igor Sechin, the energy group Gunvor and its leader Gennady Timchenko, as well as Sberbank, with its head Herman Gref.

See also: The rise and fall of Putinocracy. How much of the future does the Kremlin’s master have?

Energy, technical, and economic corporations are one of the foundations of modern Russia, and they all remain state-owned. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the heads of state-owned companies provide support to the dictator. Consequently, they have one weakness — they owe their positions to the Kremlin and now behave accordingly. But there’s a much more intriguing cohort of people — the oligarchs.

The Russian oligarchy is a mysterious phenomenon. Undoubtedly, individuals who have illegally amassed wealth and continue to do so, while also holding vast corporations, media assets, and real estate, possess significant levers of influence over the current Russian politics. ICUV analysts have identified 8 key figures who serve as the Kremlin’s wallets.

The Rotenberg family is closest to the dictator, particularly Arkady Rotenberg — a billionaire and businessman who owns hundreds of companies, including gas extraction, gas transportation, construction, publishing, and media. Until recently, one of the properties owned by the Russian oligarch was the Ocean Plaza shopping mall in Kyiv, which was nationalized.

Rotenberg — a close friend of Putin, and he’s been acquainted with the dictator possibly since childhood. According to media reports, he is currently financing mercenaries from the private military company of Sergey Aksyonov, the head of the occupation administration of Crimea. His connections with Putin have allowed Rotenberg’s companies to receive state orders worth hundreds of millions of dollars. For instance, in 2015, the dictator personally invited the oligarch to participate in the construction project of the Crimean Bridge, and the contracting company became Rotenberg’s billionaire-owned Stroygazmontazh. As a result, this company secured a contract for billions of rubles and built a structure that didn’t stand for long.

Roman Abramovich is an oligarch whose name has been prominently mentioned in the media during the full-scale war. This friend of Putin, who was ranked among the top 100 richest people on the planet in 2022, participated in negotiations between Ukraine and Russia at the beginning of the invasion and even, according to some reports, was involved in certain discussions regarding prisoner exchanges. However, all attempts to act as a mediator were nothing more than efforts to salvage his own reputation and wealth from anti-Russian and personal sanctions.

Mikhail Fridman, who incidentally hails from Lviv, publicly tries to distance himself from Putin in every possible way. For instance, he referred to the full-scale invasion as a “tragedy.” However, as far back as 2018, the US Treasury Department included him in the sanctions list as an oligarch close to the dictator. His companies, including Alfa Group, suspected of having close ties to the Kremlin, also fell under restrictions.

Also among Putin’s oligarchic friends are Alisher Usmanov, Oleg Deripaska, Suleiman Kerimov, Vladimir Lisin, Vladimir Potanin, Leonid Mikhelson, and other Russian oligarchs.

What do they all have in common? They publicly attempt to create an image of businessmen not associated with the Kremlin. Some even refer to the war as a “tragedy,” as Fridman does. However, despite their efforts, their financial growth became possible only due to their influence over the Kremlin.

Oligarchs are the most powerful force within the Kremlin. Moreover, last spring, many Western and Ukrainian analysts were betting that the oligarchs would force Putin to stop the war, as they were losing too much due to sanctions. However, it appears that this reality suits Russia’s wealthiest individuals just fine.

Publicly distancing themselves from the Kremlin is nothing more than an attempt not only to circumvent sanctions but also to avoid responsibility for their own war. Whether they will succeed in doing so is hard to say. However, there are things that can be stated with certainty — removing even one of them would be extremely difficult. Although, if one were to believe reports of the poisoning of two members of the Ukrainian delegation and Abramovich after negotiations in March 2022, attempts were made. But whether this was truly an attempt to eliminate an oligarch or a staged event to make the West trust a Putin-connected oligarch is also a question.

Tribunal for Putin: dream or reality

Vladimir Putin is now officially considered a war criminal — evidenced by the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. This warrant, issued in March of this year, pertains to the dictator and the so-called “children’s rights advocate” Maria Lvova-Belova in relation to the case of the abduction of Ukrainian children. This is just one case, as the list of accusations also includes the terrorist activities of the Wagner Group, which the Kremlin funded at Putin’s behest, war crimes against civilians, mistreatment of prisoners of war, and genocide.

However, the question remains whether Putin can actually end up in The Hague. For many, this idea seems like a fantasy since Putin is unlikely to travel to a country that would execute the arrest warrant and apprehend him. A notable example of this is the BRICS summit, which Putin did not attend.

Nevertheless, if we have mentioned the fate of Ribbentrop, it is worth recalling another war criminal — Slobodan Milosevic, the president of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. He was accused of orchestrating ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in 1999, and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia issued an arrest warrant for him. Two years later, Yugoslav authorities apprehended Milosevic and handed him over to the Hague Tribunal in the same year. However, the case was closed due to Milosevic’s death in The Hague’s prison.

What is the significance of this story? Belgrade itself handed Milosevic over to the hands of justice. Against the backdrop of ongoing conflicts in Russia, including the Wagner Group coup that led to the elimination of Prigozhin, it cannot be ruled out that Putin might find his way to The Hague with the encouragement of fellow Russians.

What the tribunal will be like remains a question, as discussions on this topic continue. Western partners advocate for the idea of a “hybrid” tribunal — a legal process based on existing Ukrainian legislation with the inclusion of concepts of international law.

However, in the past, official Kyiv called for the establishment of a full-fledged tribunal, but it seems that the basis for punishing Putin and his associates is the “hybrid scenario.” Deputy Head of the President’s Office, Andriy Smyrnov, explained that major Western powers, who often conduct military campaigns abroad, fear that if a regular tribunal is organized against Russia, this system could later be used to punish them as well.

Putin might evade punishment. However, only in the way, Slobodan Milosevic did — by not living long enough to face the tribunal. But Adolf Hitler also didn’t survive until the Nuremberg trials, yet the tribunal convicted more than two dozen top officials of the Third Reich, whose modern incarnations now include Patrushev, Bortnikov, Shoigu, Gerasimov, Zolotov, Naryshkin, Lavrov, and other friends of Putin.

Originally posted by Ivan Mahuriak on 24 Kanal. Translated and edited by the UaPosition – Ukrainian news and analytics website

See also: Problem for Putin: What consequences does the ICC order to arrest the President of the Russian Federation already have?


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