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Putin appointed policeman wounded in grenade attack

By Ben Marquis
|
May 16, 2023

As part of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly installed his allies and associates as top officials in various positions in the Russian-occupied territory of Ukraine.

One of those appointed officials is Maj. Gen. Igor Kornet, who is essentially serving as the law enforcement chief and acting interior minister of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, and was reportedly just severely wounded in a grenade attack, according to the Daily Mail.

Kornet is believed to be a close associate of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a top Putin ally who heads a Russian mercenary force known as the Wagner Group, but who has also reportedly angered top Russian officials, potentially including Putin himself, with recently pointed criticisms of the Russian military effort in Ukraine.

Kornet and Others Injured in Suspected Grenade Attack

The Daily Mail reported that the alleged grenade attack that severely wounded Kornet occurred on Monday in a barbershop in Luhansk and was said to have left at least one civilian dead and wounded several other individuals, some of whom were hospitalized alongside the appointed acting minister.

Initial reports suggested that Kornet was listed in "grave" condition and was being kept alive on a ventilator after suffering extensive blast injuries to his chest and limbs as well as a concussion and other brain injuries.

According to the independent Moscow Times, a spokesperson for the Russian-occupied Luhansk People's Republic confirmed that the blast had occurred at the barbershop that is located in close vicinity to local government buildings and that at least seven people had been injured.

The spokesperson said that four men were listed in "serious condition," including Kornet and a 17-year-old teenager.

Russian media outlet TASS also confirmed that the explosion had occurred, that seven people had been wounded, that a civilian passerby had been killed, and that Russian authorities had opened up an investigation into the incident.

The outlet also reported that Kornet had been operated on to repair his injuries, per a former adviser of the general, Vitaly Kiselev, who said, "Now, Igor is in stable condition. More time is needed to assess his condition. Doctors say he underwent a difficult surgery."

Prigozhin Has Become Highly Critical of Russian Military Leadership

The Daily Mail reported that in light of the alleged close association between Kornet and Prigozhin, there is some speculation that the grenade attack was actually an inside job meant to serve as a warning to the mercenary group leader in response to his recent critiques of the Russian war effort.

The outlet reported separately last week that President Putin had taken personal offense to Prigozhin's criticisms that were ostensibly aimed at top Russian military leaders and was allegedly considering making use of Russian security services to "put a stop" to the powerful Prigozhin who some suspect has been positioning himself to be a top Russian leader if and when Putin is no longer the president, for whatever reason that may occur.

For the past several months, Prigozhin's Wagner Group has been at the forefront of the stalled Russian effort to fully seize the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, and as such has suffered heavy casualties, potentially numbering in the tens of thousands since the fighting began in the winter months.

He has in recent weeks accused regular Russian military units of cowardice and called out specific members of Russia's military leadership for not properly equipping or supporting his mercenary troops in the protracted and brutal battle in that city.

Unnamed sources in Moscow said that the mercenary leader crossed a "red line" with several of the critical videos that he has released, including one in which he appeared to threaten to summarily withdraw his own forces from Bakhmut and hand the city back over to the Ukrainians if the alleged lack of support from the regular Russian military was not immediately addressed.

"If this continues, official security forces will certainly put a stop to it," one anonymous source said, though it was unclear if that meant that Prigozhin would be killed or simply arrested and jailed.

Actual Perpetrator of Barbershop Grenade Attack Remains Unknown

To be sure, it is entirely unclear if the reported grenade attack at the barbershop in Luhansk that seriously injured the appointed official Kornet and others was actually perpetrated by Russian security services as a sort of warning to Prigozhin, as it is also quite possible that the attack was carried out by Ukrainian resistance behind Russian lines.

That said, it is certainly not unheard of for Russian President Putin to take action against fellow Russians, including his oligarchic allies, if he perceives them to be disloyal or to pose a threat to his continued power and leadership.