Russian mercenary boss accuses top army brass of 'treason', Moscow pushes back

February 22, 2023 10:23 am

[Source: Reuters]

Outspoken Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin accused top brass on Tuesday of deliberately depriving his Wagner fighters of munitions in what he called a treasonous attempt to destroy his private military company.

The Russian defense ministry quickly pushed back, issuing a lengthy statement saying complaints about lack of ammunition were “absolutely untrue” and would help the enemy. It did not mention Wagner by name.

Prigozhin has assumed a more public role since the war started; his Wagner Group spearheaded the battle for the town of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

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But this year he was stripped of the right to recruit prisoners and there have been some signs of a Kremlin move to curb his influence.

On Tuesday, he lost his temper and at one point shouted.

“There is simply direct opposition going on (to attempts to equip Wagner fighters),” he said in a voice message posted on his Telegram channel. “This can be equated to high treason.

The Russian defense ministry, commenting on what it called “overexcited statements”, said military officials were doing all they could to supply fighters.

“Attempts to create a split within the close mechanism of interaction and support between units of the Russian (fighting) groups are counter-productive and work solely to the benefit of the enemy.”

Prigozhin also said senior officials had declined requests for special spades to dig trenches.

He accused top brass of deciding “people should die when it’s convenient for them”, and said Wagner fighters were “dropping like flies” in the absence of necessary supplies.

It was the second such message published by Prigozhin in two days. In an obscenity-peppered message on Monday, he complained that unnamed officials were denying Wagner supplies out of personal animosity to him, and that he was required to “apologize and obey” to rectify the situation.

The defense ministry has previously said Wagner is not under its control even though the militia depends on the state for some arms and logistics.

Tatiana Stanovaya, head of the R.Politik political consultancy, said Prigozhin’s Monday outburst looked like “an act of desperation” aimed at “getting through to Putin”.

It was not clear whether he had Prigozhin in mind, but Putin on Tuesday said he wanted an end to infighting.

“We must get rid of – I want to emphasize this – any interdepartmental contradictions, formalities, grudges, misunderstandings, and other nonsense,” he told the political and military elite.

In a separate post, Prigozhin said he had been too busy to watch the speech and could therefore not comment on the president’s remarks.