It has been nearly five months since Dmitry Rogozin was sacked as director general of Roscosmos, the Russian state-owned space corporation. Later, a Russian space official acknowledged that Rogozin was removed from this high-profile post to ease tensions with NASA and other partners on the International Space Station. It has worked, as international spaceflight relations have improved.
Since his dismissal it has been speculated that Rogozin might take some sort of leadership position in Russian-occupied areas of Eastern Ukraine. This has yet to happen, however, so Rogozin declared himself the head of the “Tsar’s Wolves” inspection group of volunteers. Rogozin’s stated aim has been to test and supply the advanced weapons technology needed by Russian troops to win the war.
As part of his efforts, Rogozin has been posting images and statements to his Telegram account from the Donbas region of Ukraine, visiting with troops. To look the part—and, knowing Rogozin, likely to build up his image as a “tough guy”—Rogozin has also posted images of himself dressed up as a soldier. At times, however, Rogozin’s actions have looked more like cosplaying than anything else, and some Russians (as well as prominent former NASA astronauts) have taken to mocking the Russian politician who was once close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Recently, Russians have been picking apart these images of Rogozin because they show him wearing more expensive gear than is available to Russian troops. Some of his equipment, in fact, was made in NATO countries, which Russia opposes.
Apparently Russian military correspondents are making fun of Dmitry Rogozin because he keeps posting photos of himself in fancy NATO military gear that is an order of magnitude more expensive than regular Russian troops get. Example: pic.twitter.com/j7nQyTMPys
— Eric Berger (@SciGuySpace) November 28, 2022
Among Rogozin’s new critics is none other than Yevgeny Prigozhin, a man known as “Putin’s chef,” who is one of the most dangerous people in Russia. Prigozhin has seen his profile rise significantly this year as Putin has turned to him to help stem the tide of a flailing war effort in Ukraine. In this role, Prigozhin effectively has carte blanche to act within Russia and Ukraine.
Prigozhin leads an organization called the Wagner Group, which has stood up mercenary armies to support Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine. As he has done this, Prigozhin has mercilessly criticized Russian defense officials who led the war’s early phases. Of the Russian military general staff, he said in October, “All these bastards ought to be sent to the front barefoot with just a submachine gun.”
Now Prigozhin has taken note of Rogozin’s travels near the front lines. Prigozhin said the actions of Rogozin in Ukraine are clearly being done for the purposes of public relations, rather than furthering the Russian war effort. Moreover, he said, Wagner Group soldiers are well-trained to identify those attired in NATO clothing. They are prepared to kill any such people on sight.
Prigozhin also took a gratuitous shot at the quality of Russian rockets and satellites during Rogozin’s tenure at Roscosmos, which lasted from May 2018 to July 2022, and saw several high-profile failures.
Rogozin, at least publicly, has yet to respond to the criticisms.