Just as Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Tuesday that the country was more united than ever in its war against Ukraine, the mercenary boss tasked with doing anything necessary to bring the Kremlin “victory” there released a scathing tirade hinting at mutiny on the battlefield.
Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin straight-up accused the Russian military of “betraying the motherland” with a nefarious plot to “destroy” the mercenary collective, the same group he says had direct orders from Putin to turn the tide of the war.
“The Chief of the General Staff [Valery Gerasimov] and the defense minister [Sergei Shoigu] are giving out commands left and right to not give Wagner not only ammunition, but also air transport. Now information has come in that they have removed the receipt of entrenching shovels for the guys to dig with… There is direct pushback, this is nothing but an attempt to destroy Wagner,” he said in an audio message released through his press service.
“This can be equated with a betrayal of the motherland, at a time when Wagner is battling for Bakhmut and losing hundreds of fighters every day,” he shouted.
A day earlier, he said he’d been told to grovel before top military brass if he wants help receiving ammunition.
“Everyone nods toward the top and says: ‘You know, Yevgeny Viktorovich, you have a difficult relationship over there. You need to apologize and confess your faults, then your fighters will receive ammunition.’ Apologize to whom? Confess to whom? 140 million Russians, please tell me who should I apologize to so that my guys die half as many times?”
“Those who are interfering with us winning this war, they are working directly for the enemy,” he said.
He blamed his fighters “dying in droves” on Russian officials who “decided it’s their country” and people “will die when it’s convenient for them.”
His complaints have fueled outrage among many pro-Kremlin military bloggers who took jabs at Putin for failing to mention Wagner’s role in the war in his state-of-the-nation address.
While Prigozhin has repeatedly butted heads with Russia’s top military brass during the war and recently announced he’d been “sidelined” from his prison-recruiting scheme, this appears to be the first time his supporters are openly hinting at revenge for the betrayal.
“We. Will. Remember. This,” one “patriotic” military channel wrote on Telegram after Prigozhin’s “emotional” appeal for more ammunition.
“The top brass is SABOTAGING THE RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE ON [BAKHMUT] with their petty whims. … This is fucked up! … The task of every Russian blogger now is to raise this issue as loudly and frequently as possible, to make it number one on the agenda. Otherwise, we are all accomplices in this diabolical process, the name of which is the murder of the Russian Victory.”
Prigozhin, for his part, almost immediately changed his tune about his fighters dying “in droves” when asked by a journalist for Radio Free Europe to confirm whether the U.S. claim about 30,000 fighters being killed so far is true.
Asked if he could reveal how many of his men had been killed by firing squad or sledgehammer, he boasted of tens of thousands of Ukrainians “destroyed at the hands of Wagner”—and then appeared to threaten the journalist who dared to ask about the group’s extrajudicial killings.
“If you, as part of a friendly company from the U.S. government, come to us, then perhaps we will think about how to use the sledgehammer,” he said.