If today’s Russia could be compared with a human, Russia is definitely Yevgeny Prigozhin. His life story is the life story of contemporary Russia and the majority of its citizens. Or at least they wish they had the life Prigozhin, their hero, had.
Prigozhin was probably the second most popular public figure in Russia at the time of his murder.
In fair and democratic elections, Prigozhin would have either won the presidential race or would have been slightly behind Putin. If he had ever decided to run against his own leader and the leader of Russia at all.
Putin is still a popular politician because Russian people love people like him and Prigozhin.
Prigozhin was just slightly more natural regarding those horrific features that Russian people love so much in their leaders. Putin occasionally acts or pretends to be humble, and the Russian majority does not like it.
The most famous and influential member in the ruling circle
Putin and Prigozhin were about the same. The main difference was that Yeltsin granted a winning lottery ticket to Putin by appointing him a prime minister, and no one chose Prigozhin.
Prigozhin was the best-known and probably the most influential member of the ruling circle precisely because his power did not derive from political appointments or an administrative function.
He had climbed to the top by himself. Prigozhin, just like Putin, lied and humiliated himself to advance further.
During their St. Petersburg days, Putin publicly carried Mayor Anatoly Sobchak's suitcase. Prigozhin was a waiter in his restaurant in St. Petersburg when Putin and US President George W. Bush came to visit.
According to the law of the Russian underground, it was a huge humiliation to be a servant to a public official.
He used criminal jargon because he had spent his whole life in that environment. He used simple and understandable patriotic proclamations. He was even against corruption in the army, a matter opposition member Alexei Navalny traditionally dealt with.
Putin and sometimes Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov try occasionally to insert vocabulary from Russian criminal jargon into their speeches because it caresses the ears of the Russian people. Prigozhin was everything they wanted to be: ruthless, wealthy, famous and feared.
Confused public spreads gossip
Prigozhin was today's Russian hero. A true Russian success story killed a few days ago.
That is why the public is confused. They do not know what to think now when a great Russian hero’s plane was shot down a few miles away from Moscow.
They will try to reject the Kremlin’s involvement in Prigozhin’s assassination. But it will force them to acknowledge the power of Ukrainian or Western intelligence services, which is even more difficult for them to accept.
However, his death will have a negative impact on Russia in general. It will severely impact the mood of the Russian people and will cause gossip and create unrest and discontent in the higher echelons of the Russian elite.
After Prigozhin’s murder, it is clear to them that Putin’s word is worth less than 2.5-dollar shawarma, sold in thousands of cheap fast-food joints around Moscow.
They are concerned that it is not yet clear how Progozhin's plane was hit: a planted bomb while it was parked or a missile.
No one is safe anymore within the elite
Either way is horrific to the Russian elite because it means no one is safe any more. The advanced and sophisticated private security services are now useless against military capabilities.
They are also aware that Prigozhin’s plane was parked with those owned by privileged Russians and not those of other Russian mortal millionaires.
That is why they can rightly feel like a military strike target if they even think of disloyalty.
Today's Russia, whose life story is identified with the life story of Yevgeny Prigozhin, started being much weaker without him. It also started being much more vulnerable after his assassination.
Prigozhin’s death is symbolic. It shows that no one in Russia’s upper class can safely escape the Ukrainian escapade started by Vladimir Putin.
It also shows that today’s Russia has no happy ending and risks to be crashed, like Prigozhin’s plane, by either internal or external forces.