Ztwo men who appear as Vladimir Putin’s cleaners are looking for publicity. One is Ramzan Kadyrov. The Chechen leader publishes videos of his sons, 14, 15 and 16 years old, teenage boys in camouflage. First they shoot at a training ground with rifles and an armored personnel carrier. The music plays like something out of an action movie. Then you see the boys in a ditch between bushes, supposedly in Ukraine. Now they shoot in the direction of an invisible enemy, firing a bazooka. “To protect family, people and fatherland,” comments Kadyrov.
The other is Yevgeny Prigozhin. The businessman appears in a video with four convicts in the dark on a terrace. He is the only one in the clip who is not missing any limbs. The convicts went to Putin’s war for Prigozhin, were mutilated and pardoned. One of the men was convicted of beating a judge to death with a barbell and poker. Now he’s missing his right leg below the knee. “The lawbreaker became a war hero,” Prigozhin tells him.
As things have gotten worse for Russia in Ukraine, the voices of the president’s two henchmen have been getting louder. Kadyrov and Prigozhin never miss an opportunity to reinforce each other when one of them expresses an opinion on Putin’s “special operation.” “Totally agree with Mr. Prigozhin’s opinion,” Kadyrov was commenting on his applause for the decision to withdraw Russia’s forces from the parts north of the Dnieper near Kherson to the south bank of the river. Prigozhin “very aptly remarked that Surovikin saved thousands of soldiers who were actually surrounded”.
General Sergei Surovikin is the commander of the invading forces presented in October. Formally, the withdrawal order was not his decision, nor was it Putin’s, who actually must have made it. But that of Defense Minister Sergei Schojgu. But Kadyrov and Prigozhin had hailed Zurovikin’s appointment a month ago. Previously, both of them had been waging agitation against Russia’s military leadership, below the commander-in-chief, Putin. Another general in power in Ukraine, portrayed as incompetent by Prigozhin and Kadyrov, is said to have just lost his post.
Putin’s self-proclaimed foot soldier is believed to be capable of anything
Both men are feared in their own right. Their pair skating via social media has led some to speak of a “tandem”. The 46-year-old Chechen and the Russian, who is a decade and a half older, have more in common than meets the eye. Both are minions in Putin’s system, with special status and direct lines to the president. Both have de facto private armies. Both are power-hungry misfits. Kadyrov’s father Achmat once fought for an independent Chechnya and called for jihad against Russia. In the second Chechen war, which Putin started as prime minister in 1999, Akhmat Kadyrov switched sides and was given power in Grozny in return. In 2004 he was killed in a bomb attack at the football stadium in the Chechen capital.