There is an opinion that perhaps the biggest humiliation for Putin was the need to rely on the mediation of Alexander Lukashenko. What roles do they now play in relation to each other?
I don’t think Putin sees this as a humiliation. He has long regarded Lukashenko as a junior partner. If a junior partner can help a senior partner in resolving issues, this is, from the point of view of Russian business and political logic, a completely normal thing. And here nothing has changed in the relationship between Putin and Lukashenko.
Lukashenko has done an important service for Putin and may now feel that the Russian president owes him. But the balance of the relationship has not changed. It is an unequal partnership in which Putin plays the leading role.
No one has been punished for the mutiny and for the pilots killed during it. In your opinion, why did the authorities back down from arrests, criminal cases, etc.?
Due to some set of circumstances that we do not know exactly, Putin decided to keep the word he gave to Prigozhin. It involved the dropping of charges against him and permission to evacuate Prigozhin and some of his people to Belarus. But this is what we know.
Perhaps Prigozhin received additional guarantees for some specific actions. But the fact is that Putin is simply keeping his word, and that is completely beyond the legal logic you lay out. These are purely political moves. The fact that the law enforcement system and the police in general in Russia has long been politicized is an open secret. We are now seeing additional confirmation that political considerations can easily prevail over legal ones.
What do you think, can a military coup be one of the scenarios for the future?
The prospect of the military component expanding in Russian politics stems from how the political regime is evolving, as in the conditions of war it must rely more and more on the armed forces and security agencies. And if a country enters such a dynamic, the possibility of a military coup generally rises.
But what kind [of coup]? This is a separate issue, driven by the dynamics of the regime itself. Because military coups are all very different. There are situations when power structures, including the armed forces, seize power in a consolidated manner, and then a regime is established that can last for a long time, as was the case, for example, of Chile in the 1970s. I find such a turn of events in Russia extremely unlikely.
But there are also situations when serious contradictions arise within a security corporation. And then there is the possibility of an unconsolidated military regime being set up. Such regimes are short-lived. Often they leapfrog one another without changing their core features. This is what is possible in Russia, though it has not yet emerged as a foreseeable prospect.
I want to specifically emphasize that the actions of Prigozhin were not an attempt at a military coup. It was a rebellion aimed at resolving a limited range of problems. And even if the actions of the rebels had met with success, they would not have led to the establishment of a military regime – they would have simply sped up the process of the military component expanding in the structure of the Russian regime.