The Wagner Group announced its withdrawal from the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut in a video laden with expletives as tensions between the mercenaries and the Russian Defense Ministry continue to rise.
“Their blood is still fresh, and now, listen to me, b—-,” Wagner founder and leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a video as he walked among the bodies of dead soldiers. “These are someone’s fathers and someone’s children.”
“And those [expletive] whoever does not give us ammunition will burn in hell, eating his entrails, [expletive]”he continued, addressing his rant to Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defense minister, and Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff. “We have a 70% ammunition shortage. Shoigu, Gerasimov, where is the ammunition? Look at them, b—-!”
Chief Wagner resorted to increasingly angry tirades as he found his influence diminished and his position alienated by the Russian military command.
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Prigozhin tried to use the press to force the hand of the Russian military leadership, first by providing an interview with a Russian pro-war blogger in which he warned that his troops were running out of their last stocks of ammunition, saying “everything the rest will crumble” if he has to pull his strength.
He then continued with the video released this week, saying that the lack of ammunition has caused casualties to ‘increase’ exponentially every day,” the BBC reported.
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“My guys will not suffer unnecessary and unjustified losses in Bakhmut without ammunition,” he said, noting that without much-needed bullets and other ammunition, he would be “obliged to transfer positions in the Bakhmut settlement to Defense Ministry units and withdraw remains of Wagner in the logistics fields to lick our wounds”.
“You assholes sit in expensive clubs; your kids enjoy life and make YouTube videos,” he continued. “You think you own this life and have the right to control their lives. You think if you have ammunition depots then you have the right.”
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“There are simple calculations: if you give the normal amount of ammunition, then there will be five times less [dead]”, he threatened. “They came here as volunteers and are dying so that you can get fat in offices made of mahogany.”
A senior Ukrainian official said on Tuesday that Russia was bringing in Wagner mercenary fighters from other areas to try to push for victory in Bakhmut ahead of Russia’s Victory Day celebrations on May 9. Wagner has been attempting to take the city since last summer, suffering heavy losses throughout the campaign, according to The Times UK.
Prigozhin enjoyed a privileged position as Russian President Vladimir Putin leaned increasingly on Wagner to keep his troop numbers up as his forces continued to suffer greater-than-expected losses in Ukraine.
With his success and growing influence, Prigozhin appeared to be attempting to seize power from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, according to a close aide and two Western officials. The associate said Prigozhin referred to Shoigu as “our biggest enemy, not the Ukrainians,” according to the Financial Times.
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One of Prigozhin’s close associates compared the mercenary leader to “Icarus”, who flew too close to the sun and got burned. The appointment of Valery Gerasimov as the new Chief of Staff, the top official in the Russian military, has seen Prigozhin’s position significantly reduced.
He had previously accused the military command of “treason” for shorting his men of much-needed munitions and ending his ability to endlessly recruit from prisons, a program that has proved highly controversial with the Russian public. .
Rob Lee, military analyst at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, he wrote on Twitter that Wagner’s lack of ammunition may reflect the Russian Defense Ministry’s ammunition rationing ahead of Ukraine’s long-awaited counter-offensive.
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“Wagner has long had a significant artillery advantage in Bakhmut and received preferential support,” Lee wrote in a Twitter thread. “The Ministry of Defense has to defend the entire front, but Prigozhin is only interested in taking Bakhmut.”
“Wagner and Prigozhin have always presented a problem of unity of command in this war,” he added. “Putin likes to use competing factions as a way to maintain power, but this is very damaging in a military operation.”