Russia has changed. In the past, it took months and sometimes even years to discover that purges, rebellions and coups had taken place in Moscow, and now we follow them live. It was much easier for our Russophiles before. They just had to be patient until the official version of the coup came from Moscow for it to become their own opinion. Today, when everything is monitored in real-time, there is no need to wait for the official version.
Which idol to worship – Putin or Prigozhin? The great leader who “raised the Russian bear to its feet” or the famous warrior whose feats have been admired and begged to come to the Balkans and solve all Serbia’s problems?
Russophiles in Serbia are confused. How are disagreements possible between the two symbols they worship Russia for? How could Putin call Prigozhin a “traitor” and “scumbag” when they were best friends and comrades-in-arms? How could the Wagner Group take up arms against their “supreme commander” when they were his sword for the return of the historical empire?
They look like a married couple in the process of getting divorced, fighting about property division and airing their dirty laundry in public. Putin said his favourite “chef” took two billion dollars from the state in one year. At the same time, he has been frantically trying to be admired by the people and keep the army and secret services loyal. He has to fight the impression that he could not defend himself against the Wagner rebellion and rumours that he fled Moscow as the mercenaries approached.
In just 24 hours, the image of the unity of the Russian leader, his army and the people, as a hope that the world would change and that “our side” would finally rule, has irreversibly collapsed for those who believed in it.
What happened was the most ordinary confrontation in a clan where force and money rule, and betrayal is punished by exile, which has already happened to Prigozhin, or an assassination, which many have experienced before him.
The heroes of the Serbian Russophiles proved to be brutally obsessed with money and power, ready to kill each other. They are no fighters for historical justice against centuries of Western oppression.
Serbian right-wing extremists believed such people could help Russia and Serbia solve all their historical problems. They thought they cared about justice in the world and respect for the small nations that wanted to protect themselves from Western hegemony.
It was gratifying to feel part of the great Russian idea of a new world where they, like a small screw, would take part in revenge against all those who have ever harmed us.
The “brothers” from Moscow constantly convinced them of this by using seductive messages about centuries-old brotherhood, the unity of two nations and a shared journey to a new world.
What will happen now that this fairy tale has turned into a nightmare in 24 hours? Which of the two quarrelling brothers will remain the idol of the pro-Russian movement in Serbia? Probably both of them, but with the inevitable quarrels and division between Putinists and Wagnerites. Just like in Russia. That fan group – and not a political group – deserves no better. If they could believe in Putin’s propaganda lies about Russia’s civilisational supremacy and their right to attack anyone who has not acknowledged this for decades, then there is no help for them.
That team does not deserve to play any role in Serbia. The collapse of the illusion of Russian power, with a live broadcast, does not give them the right to be taken seriously by anyone.
These people urged Putin to intervene in the Kosovo problem and considered him a statesman with some influence. They even wanted Prigozhin and his dogs of war to liberate Kosovo and return it to Serbia as a favour to their younger brother.
These are the people who, just a few months ago, waved Russian flags under the window of Aleksandar Vučić’s office (current Russian flags and tsarist flags), cheered for Putin and the Wagner Group, and called for the death of the Serbian president. One even came armed to Belgrade to join them with the possible intention of shooting Vučić because he was a “traitor”. This circus presented itself as a political force and an alternative that wants to “reintegrate Kosovo into the constitutional order of Serbia”. They have people in parliament, some teach at the University, and others have media with tens of thousands of subscribers. Some just disguise themselves in warrior uniforms with Wagner Group emblems and occasionally “liberate” Kosovo on Terazije in Belgrade or in front of the Assembly.
Do they still think that Putin will help Serbia whilst afraid of a new betrayal and the collapse of his private business that he has been “selling” to others as a state? Are they still convinced that Prigozhin and the Wagnerites they called “musicians” would come to return Kosovo to Serbia instead of them? Now he has been exiled to Belarus under the “watchful eye” of Alexander Lukashenko, another blackmailed minority shareholder in Putin’s crumbling company.
The coup attempt in Russia is good news for Serbia. How could the right-wing convince anyone that the Russians would come and help Serbia when at the top of the Kremlin and its business, there is a continuing fight which will last until extermination? How could Putin remain a model of statesmanship when 8,000 of his Praetorians came to the very gates of the Kremlin to ask for spoils of war rather than justice?
After all, what kind of man is he when he called his best and most loyal friend “scum” and said he stole the public’s money while he gave him billions of dollars over the years. Needless to say, with commission.
Fans of Putin’s Russia will not change their minds quickly. They will remain shocked for a long time regarding what happened to their idols. But after the Moscow coup, never again should they be taken seriously, neither them nor the policy of official Moscow, which will continue to send sugar-coated “fraternal” messages to Serbia as if nothing had happened.