Wagner Group leader calls for end to Russia’s ‘special military operation’

“Putin’s Chef” says Russia accomplished its mission.
Nicholas Slayton Avatar
The Wagner Group
FILE - Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin attends the funeral of, a fighter of the Wagner group on Dec. 24, 2022. (AP Photo, File) FILE - Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin attends the funeral of, a fighter of the Wagner group on Dec. 24, 2022. (AP)

Yevgeny Prigohzin, the leader of the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group, unexpectedly called for an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Prigozhin said the time was right to stop trying to seize more Ukrainian territory, consolidate control of what it has in Ukraine’s east, and end the fighting. 

The remarks, published in a lengthy blog post on Friday, April 14 see the oligarch-turned-PMC leader ramble about the importance of the contested city of Bakhmut, denounce the “deep state” inside of Russia, call for an end to the “special military operation” as Russia calls the war and then claim a strong Ukrainian counteroffensive would be beneficial as it would rally Russian forces.

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“The ideal option would be to announce the end of the special military operation and declare that Russia has achieved all of its planned goals — and, in some respects, we really have achieved them,” Prigozhin said in the more than 3,000-word blog post. 

It’s a bold claim and call to action for Prigozhin, who has not been particularly dovish since the war began. He has regularly shared videos from what he claims are the front lines, showing Wagner contract fighters as well as many corpses and funerals. The Wagner Group leader, known as “Putin’s chef” for his many catering businesses, has also heavily criticized the official military’s handling of the war, and said that it is denying his fighters ammunition — which includes convicts pulled from prisons to the front lines. 

He also mentioned the recently leaked U.S. intelligence documents about the war in Ukraine but downplayed their impact and relevance. 

Prigozhin’s calls for the war to end don’t mention ceding any of the lands already under Russian control. He does not call for trying to take the contested areas where Russian forces are fighting. However, his position on ending the ongoing war in Ukraine is more about his anger with what he sees as a divided Russia and inept military leaders. He opposed any negotiations and said that once settled into controlled lands, he hopes a Ukrainian counteroffensive will be launched to hit Russian fortifications. Why? The “best scenario for healing Russia” is that a major Ukrainian attack will rally Russia into a united front. 

His opinions play into his ongoing feud with the Russian military, but amid his bold call for ending the fighting, and claims that a deep state is trying to undermine Russia’s ability to wage war, Prigozhin offered some surprising comments about the state of the front lines around the city of Bakhmut. Most importantly, he fully expects to lose the city in the Ukrainian counteroffensive. 

“The troops ready for the counteroffensive are in the areas of concentration — they have enough of everything,” Prigozhin wrote. Fighting around the city has destroyed much of it and settled into trench warfare with neither side able to muster a combined-arms push to break the other side’s lines. But the Wagner Group leader says Ukraine has all of what it needs now, including fighters and ammunition. He had pushed to take the city and had been gaining ground, partly to boost the prestige of his organization, but his blog post bluntly said that Wagner cannot hold Bakhmut. 

In fact, in an apparent effort to save face, he downplayed the importance of the city, saying “the capture of Bakhmut itself will not ensure a short-term victory over Ukraine, the road to the Dnieper, or even the capture of Donbas.”

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