“Give us ammunition”: Wagner boss challenges Russian army
MOSCOW — The head of the Wagner mercenary force on Wednesday urged the Russians to pressure the country’s regular army to share ammunition with its fighters in Ukraine in a bid to challenge the Kremlin.
Yevgeny Prigozhin’s unprecedented call for Russians to side with him in a high-profile clash with the Defense Ministry came ahead of the first anniversary of Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.
The 61-year-old ally of President Vladimir Putin has been locked in a bitter power struggle with the Defense Ministry for months, while his ragtag forces lead the assault on cities in eastern Ukraine.
He has accused the Russian military of trying to “steal” Wagner Siege and criticized Moscow’s “monstrous bureaucracy” for slowing down military gains.
Angry tensions have come to light in recent days as the Wagner boss accused Moscow of refusing to arm its forces.
On Wednesday, Prigozhin stopped calling on Russians to protest in the streets, instead urging everyone from drivers to flight attendants to help him and spread the word.
“I think we’re going to break them,” he said, referring to the Department of Defense.
He had already made headlines on Tuesday when he accused Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov of essentially “treason.”
Prigozhin said Wagner loses dozens of men every day due to lack of ammunition and on Wednesday posted a picture of dozens of dead mercenaries lying in the snow.
He said the fighters died Tuesday due to a lack of ammunition.
“Mothers, wives and children will receive their bodies,” he said.
He said Shoigu and Gerasimov were responsible for the deaths of his fighters because they refused to sign papers providing ammunition.
Sanctioned by Washington and Brussels, Prigozhin has operated in the shadows for years but has been catapulted into the limelight since the start of the offensive in Ukraine.
– ‘War Breeds Monsters’ –
He has recruited from prisons across Russia to bolster Wagner’s ranks and told inmates he himself spent a decade in prison. Wagner was accused of committing abuse on the battlefield.
Months of fighting over the town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine has exposed tensions between Wagner and the regular armed forces.
On Tuesday, Prigozhin said the military command had even banned supplying Wagner fighters “shovels with which to dig trenches.”
In a rare move Tuesday, the defense ministry responded to Prigozhin’s claims, saying attempts to drive a wedge between regular forces and fighters were “counterproductive.”
The high command provides both regular forces and “volunteers” with the necessary ammunition, the Ministry of Defense said.
“That’s our priority,” he added.
“All statements allegedly made on behalf of assault units regarding the lack of ammunition are completely false,” the ministry said.
The authorities have cracked down on any criticism of the attack on Ukraine, and Prigozhin’s call for the Russians to mobilize is a major challenge for the Kremlin.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov declined to comment on a growing conflict between Wagner and the Defense Ministry on Wednesday.
Before the start of the Ukrainian attack, Prigozhin and the regular army clashed in Syria, where the Kremlin supports Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Wagner also has an increasing presence in Africa, where western countries say it has been used in Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic and Mali.
Earlier this month, Prigozhin admitted he had created a notorious online troll farm, which has been accused by Western governments of interfering in elections.
Tatyana Stanovaya, founder of political analysis company R.Politik, said Prigozhin harbors political ambitions, but added that he has made many enemies, including in the security services.
“For the security services, Prigozhin is a growing threat,” said Stanovaya, who is also a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
However, she warned that Prigozhin may one day challenge Putin.
“War produces monsters whose recklessness and desperation can become a challenge to the state if it shows even the slightest sign of weakness,” she wrote.
Source: Crypto News Deutsch