What’s Really Going On in Russia?
Last weekend, in the course of about 36 hours, Vladimir Putin faced — and then survived — one of the most serious challenges to his rule in over 20 years. An armed rebellion led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of a Russian mercenary group, took control of a southern military town, and then advanced toward Moscow, coming within about 125 miles of the city. Then, as suddenly as the rebellion began, it was over: Prigozhin was quickly exiled to Belarus without facing criminal charges — an outcome that shocked many Russia watchers.
Why did Prigozhin stage this rebellion in the first palace? Why did Putin respond the way he did? What are the implications for the future of Putin’s rule — and the broader war in Ukraine?
There are few people who understand the Putin regime as deeply as Stephen Kotkin, a pre-eminent scholar of Russian history at Stanford. We discuss Prigozhin’s complex motivations, why Putin didn’t shut down Prigozhin’s critiques before they escalated to the point of armed rebellion, how to interpret reports that members of Putin’s inner circle were aware of the rebellion plot, how Prigozhin’s march created an “unwitting referendum” that could threaten the stability of Putin’s regime, the bizarre cease-fire arranged by Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko, why Putin didn’t kill or jail Prigozhin, how this series of events could impact the outcome of the war in Ukraine and more.
(Note: This episode was recorded on Wednesday, June 28. It does not reflect any news developments that have emerged since.)
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This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” was produced by Emefa Agawu and Kristin Lin. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris, with Rollin Hu, Mary Marge Locker and Kate Sinclair. Engineering by Jeff Geld and Efim Shapiro. Our senior editor is Rogé Karma. The show’s production team also includes Annie Galvin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Kristina Samulewski and Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. And special thanks to Sonia Herrero.