Reports show more internal strife in Russia as one of President Putin’s closest allies is accusing the country’s elites of high treason. Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, blasted Moscow’s military elite for intentionally hampering the combat ability of the Wagner group by withholding essential ammunition shipments, all while ordering the group to commit itself to risky assaults. Prigozhin stated that the actions of the high command were “nothing less than an attempt to destroy Wagner. This can be equated to high treason.” Since the war began almost a year ago, PMC Wagner has been one of the most visible and controversial actors in the conflict. Progiozhin’s accusations against his supposed allies are the latest visible rift between Russian leadership as we approach the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine.
By Charlie McCarthy; February 22, 2023
The head of Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group has accused Moscow’s military chiefs of “treason” for refusing to supply his forces with munitions.
Yevgeny Prigozhin’s latest comments come several days after he said group members are dying in Ukraine due to a lack of funding and weapons from Russia.
“[Moscow’s] chief of general staff and the defense minister give out orders left and right not only to not give ammunition to PMC Wagner, but also to not help it with air transport,” Prigozhin said in a voice message shared by his press service on Tuesday, The Guardian reported.
“There is just direct opposition going on, which is nothing less than an attempt to destroy Wagner. This can be equated to high treason.”
Russia’s defense ministry, while not mentioning the Wagner Group or addressing Prigozhin’s claims specifically, denied restricting ammunition shipments to volunteer soldiers.
“All requests for ammunition for assault units are met as soon as possible,” the ministry said, promising new deliveries Saturday and denouncing as “absolutely false” reports of shortages, The Guardian reported.
“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, a longtime ally of Russia President Vladimir Putin, also accused Russian officials of having prevented the delivery of shovels for Wagner fighters to dig trenches.
After the Russian defense ministry initially rejected Prigozhin’s accusations on Tuesday, the Wagner Group boss released a voice message saying this was “nothing more than simply spitting at Wagner.”
Putin appeared to address the infighting during his state of the nation speech on Tuesday.
“We must get rid of … any interdepartmental contradictions, formalities, grudges, misunderstandings, and other nonsense,” Putin told the political and military elite, The Guardian reported.
The Wagner Group, which has recruited members from prisons across Russia, currently is playing a significant role in Russia’s efforts to capture the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s east.
The battle, though, has exposed tensions between the Wagner Group and the Russian military. Kremlin officials deny there are problems.
A Luhansk Oblast tweet on Tuesday included a photo of dead soldiers and said, “‼️ #Prigozhin showed the losses of PMC “#Wagner” near Bakhmut in 1 day. And they haven’t been as active lately. The first waves were generally suicide bombers. Welcome to #Ukraine.”
Prigozhin previously blasted Moscow’s “monstrous bureaucracy” for slowing military gains, and has accused the Russian military of attempting to “steal” victories from the Wagner Group.
Photo: Olga Maltseva/Getty Images