Elaine Byrne: Powerful private armies are pushing Putin to an ever more brutal stance

The Russian president has little control over Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin and Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov, who criticise inept military leadership without censure and promote extreme measures in Ukraine

Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechen warlord: sent thousands from his highly trained private army into Ukraine

In the days that followed Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, introduced harsh new censorship laws. Article 280.3 of the Kremlin criminal code prohibited “discrediting Russian armed forces”, with punishments including fines or prison terms of up to five years.

Article 207.3, meanwhile, had the effect of criminalising all criticism of the war, stating that any “public dissemination of deliberately false information” could be punished by prison terms of up to 15 ...