As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drags on, the head of the Wagner Group mercenary force is once again threatening to withdraw his forces from the conflict.
In a gruesome, expletive-laden video reportedly filmed on May 4, Wagner honcho Yevgeniy Prigozhin can be seen at night, walking amongst the fallen bodies of his organization’s mercenaries.
“Those are soldiers we lost today. Their blood is still fresh,” Prigozhin says in the video, according to Politico. “And now listen to me, fuckers. They were someone’s sons or fathers. You, fuckers, who don’t give us ammo, will burn in hell. We have a lack of shells … Shoigu, Gerasimov, where the fuck are our shells? Look at them, bitches.”
‘Shoigu’ refers to Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s Minister of Defense, while ‘Gerasimov’ is Gen. Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian military and currently commander of all operations in Ukraine.
Prigozhin followed up on his video with a statement that Wagner Group mercenaries would have to withdraw from around the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut on May 10, where they have for several months been engaged in some of the most brutal and deadly fighting of the conflict.
Prigozhin’s broadside against President Vladimir Putin’s war chiefs is the latest in an escalating war of words between the mercenary commander and the Russian government. Much of it seems to stem from the disparity in attention paid to the Russian military’s lack of success and the comparative achievements of Wagner Group mercenaries. While the military has fallen victim to 40-mile-long convoys stranded on highways and infantry squads trapped in elevators, the Wagner Group – which has reportedly resorted to recruiting thousands of prison convicts into its ranks — has sought to portray its mercenaries as the most successful Russian force on the front lines.
It isn’t the first time Prigozhin has publicly aired this kind of dispute with the Kremlin. Since the beginning of of the year, Prigozhin has not hesitated to claim that his mercenaries have been denied ammunition and supplies. He’s released other videos claiming that the Russian military is not adequately supplying his forces, calling the dearth of military resources “a crime against Russia and Russian people” and stating that “the criminals must be held accountable.”
Prigozhin has even gone so far as to suggest an end to the conflict, stating last month that, “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.”
Now, this all may just be posturing by Prigozhin, but either way, his growing rift with the Kremling is just another sign of dysfunction in an extremely dysfunctional conflict.
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