The infighting between Wagner Group mercenary firm and Russia’s defense ministry has come to a head, as on Friday Wagner chiefYevgeny Prigozhin declared he’s withdrawing his forces from Bakhmut on May 10 for lack of ammunition. He’s issued fierce complaints for weeks that ammunition is being withheld from the military chain of command as internal tensions have exploded into public view.
“I declare on behalf of the Wagner fighters, on behalf of the Wagner command, that on May 10, 2023, we are obliged to transfer positions in the settlement of Bakhmut to units of the Defense Ministry and withdraw the remains of Wagner to logistics camps to lick our wounds,” Prigozhin said.
“I’m withdrawing Wagner PMC units because without ammunition, they are doomed to a senseless death,” Prigozhin continued, asserting that his firm had fallen “out of favor with envious near-military bureaucrats.”
The day prior to this he issued a separate dramatic battlefield video on Telegram declaring “We are lacking 70% of the needed ammunition!” The clip is dramatic and disturbing as it shows Prigozhin standing over dozens of his fighters killed on the Ukrainian battlefield, while blaming their deaths on lack of adequate support.
In the video, he expressly calls out the defense minister and chief of the armed forces: “Shoigu, Gerasimov, where … is the ammunition?” says Prigozhin. “The blood is still fresh,” he says of bodies around him. “They came here as volunteers and are dying so you can sit like fat cats in your luxury offices.”
It is by far the most scathing attack on the regular chain of command as well as unsupportive politicians at home launched by the Wagner chief, following weeks of public verbal denunciations and even warnings to take the matter directly to Putin, who is no doubt fully aware of the spat. The Thursday social media message included the following moment:
“These are someone’s f**king fathers and someone’s sons. And you f**kers who aren’t giving [us] ammunition, you b*tches, will have your guts eaten out in hell!” yelled Prigozhin in Thursday’s video.
⚡️Prigozhin statement translated via an AI:
(note: 2022, not 1922) pic.twitter.com/Whh0jQ6ncm
— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) May 5, 2023
Prigozhin has already threatened to quit Bakhmut before – but it would be a huge blow to the Russian advance there, given they already control some 90% of the strategic city in Donetsk oblast. There’s growing speculation that this rift has sparked elite infighting within the halls of the Kremlin.
He’s repeatedly charged the regular military command with “betraying” his fighters by withholding ammunition in the ongoing spat which became public with the Russian seizure of Soledar. A Wagner statement at the time declared victory over the city for itself, but controversially didn’t acknowledge the role of the regular military. The infighting has increasingly been out in the open since then, and is no doubt somewhat of an embarrassment while facing down NATO and the Western allies.
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