Russian Oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin in Public Standoff with Russian Military Over Wagner Group
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the oligarch behind the notorious Russian mercenary group Wagner, is embroiled in a public standoff with the Russian military. Prigozhin has accused the military of taking credit for successes won by his troops and of slowing down their advance in Ukraine with administrative red tape. This conflict was brought to a head when Prigozhin ran a “relentless defamation” campaign against the Russian military, leading to a battle of accusations and pleas for ammunition.
Wagner has been a driving force in the war in Ukraine since late 2022 and has been accused of recruiting convicts from Russian prisons to fight in the conflict. The group is currently heavily engaged in the battle for the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, which has been ongoing for months. Prigozhin has made multiple public pleas for Russia’s formal military to provide his troops with more ammunition to continue the assault on Bakhmut.
The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense (MOD) said in an intelligence update that “about half of the prisoners Wagner has already deployed in Ukraine have likely become casualties”. The MOD added that the group was expanding their recruitment efforts, giving career talks in Moscow high schools, and distributing questionnaires titled “Application of a Young Warrior” to collect the contact details of interested students.
The British MOD also said that if Prigozhin is unable to recruit from prisons, he “will likely be forced to reduce the scale or intensity of Wagner operations in Ukraine”. This is echoed by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), who said the Russian Ministry of Defense is currently “prioritizing eliminating Wagner on the battlefields in Bakhmut”.
In Melitopol, a Ukrainian-controlled city, Mayor Ivan Fedorov said Wagner forces had begun recruiting locals to fight in Bakhmut, offering 200,000 rubles ($2,650) a month to join them. Prigozhin said he had been cut off from all government communication channels following his plea to the Ministry of Defense and opened recruitment centres in 42 Russian cities in order to replenish the ranks of his mercenaries.
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