War in Ukraine: why the rag burns between the paramilitary group Wagner and the Russian army

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Dissensions within the forces of Moscow. In a voice message published on Tuesday February 21 on Telegram, the leader of the private military company Wagner, Evgueni Prigojine, accused the Russian general staff of having betrayed its mercenaries by refusing, according to him, to deliver equipment to them in the eastern Ukraine. This new attack joins the stream of criticism recently leveled against the Russian army by Vladimir Putin’s former cook, who became a businessman at the head of opaque security and media companies.
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While his fighters are engaged in bloody battles, in Bakhmout and Soledar in particular (Donbass region), Yevgueni Prigojine has repeatedly questioned the strategy of the Russian generals in Ukraine, arrogating to himself in passing the credit for certain operations nevertheless carried out with the regular army of Moscow. Franceinfo takes stock of the increasingly tense relations between the private military company (SMP) Wagner and the Russian general staff.
Discord around logistical and strategic support
In the latest public criticism of Yevgeny Prigojine, the highest figures of the Russian army take it for their rank. The chief of staff and the minister of defense distribute orders at all costs, asking not only not to give ammunition to the paramilitary group Wagner, but also not to help it with air transport, said scolded the boss of the private military company. A direct attack against Valeriy Guerassimov, head of the Russian forces since 2012, and General Sergei Choigou, Minister of Defense since 2012 as well.
The leader of the SMP no longer hesitates to speak of frontal opposition between his group and the official army, while recently emerged on social networks videos of altercations between Russian soldiers and mercenaries, as well as sequences in which Wagner fighters demanded arms and ammunition directly from the Russian command. For Prigozhin, the Russian army’s supposed lack of support for its men is nothing less than an attempt to destroy Wagner. This can be seen as a betrayal of the fatherland, as Wagner fights for Bakhmout, suffering hundreds of losses every day, he protested on Tuesday.

A photomontage relayed on February 22, 2023 by the Concord press group, owned by Yevgueni Prigojine, showing a request for ammunition next to corpses presented as those of the mercenaries of the Wagner group in Ukraine. (CONCORD GROUP (VIA TELEGRAM))

On Wednesday morning, the Concord group, owned by Yevgueni Prigojine, relayed on Telegram a photo montage showing requests for ammunition sent to the general staff, alongside an image showing a pile of bodies of men in military uniform. presented as those of Wagner mercenaries in Ukraine. If the authenticity of these documents could not be verified independently, this assembly represents in any case a new blow of pressure on the part of Prigojine and his supporters.
Also on Telegram (in Russian), Wagner’s boss had already reported a complete shortage of shells for his men, blamed on the Defense Ministry. The questions I asked about ammunition unfortunately remain unanswered, we hear in an audio recording. In his message, Prigojine also said he regretted the former general in charge of Russian operations in Ukraine, Sergei Surovikin, replaced in January 2023 by the current Russian chief of staff.
Russian army denounces elated comments
Tuesday evening, the Russian Ministry of Defense issued a press release in response to criticism from Yevgueni Prigojine, without quoting him, however. The text, taken up by the official Tass news agency (in English), ensures that ammunition has indeed been delivered in sufficient numbers to the voluntary assault units, a term which seems to refer to the mercenaries of the SMP Wagner. Welcoming its progress in eastern Ukraine, the ministry also declares that these successful operations would be impossible without the support of fire from artillery units and armored vehicles. This is why all statements allegedly made on behalf of assault units about ammunition shortages are absolutely false, the statement continued.
Faced with statements qualified as exalted comments, the Ministry of Defense also promises new deliveries of arms and ammunition to the front line as of Saturday, February 25.The volunteers, like the servicemen of the assault units of the Russian forces, bravely and selflessly liberate the Donbass from the militants of the Kiev regime, he adds, in what seems like a call to order. Attempts to disrupt the close mechanism of cooperation and support between units of the Russian force are counterproductive and play into the hands of the enemy.
Vladimir Putin did not himself react to the words of Yevgueni Prigojine. Its spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, quoted by the Russian newspaper Kommersant, simply said on Wednesday that he had forwarded the questions [concerning the shortage of ammunition] to the Ministry of Defense.
Increasingly scathing reviews
This outbreak of fever follows a long series of comments and spades launched by Evgueni Prigojine in the direction of the Russian army. In October 2022, the withdrawal of the Russians from the city of Lyman (Donetsk province) angered Wagner’s boss. Let’s send all these bastards to the front, with machine guns and bare feet! More warmonger than the Duma, the Russian Parliament, Prigojine has repeatedly urged MPs to show more support for the military operation.
The boss of the Wagner group also claimed several military successes, such as in Severodonetsk in June 2022, and more recently in Soledar, assuring that the fighting had been won there exclusively thanks to his mercenaries. Statements to be put into perspective with the press releases of the Russian army, systematically evoking cooperation between the various forces deployed in Ukraine. Moscow has outsourced many tasks and always seems to need Wagner’s militiamen, whether for infantry assaults or defensive activities.
Wagner wants to keep his influence
Within the Ukrainian conflict, another war is being played out for Wagner. The group is indeed keen to maintain its reputation with its fighters, attracted by a higher salary than the pay in the regular army. But in recent months, the SMP has had difficulty recruiting, going so far as to use prisoners, when 30,000 of its men have already been killed since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, according to figures. of American intelligence communicated by the White House (in English).
Faced with the horrors of war, the group is not spared by desertions, such as that, highly publicized, of the Russian Andreï Medvedev, for whom the mercenaries are treated like cattle. In order to prevent these leaks, Evgueni Prigojine and his paramilitary group have chosen the hard way: execution. In November 2022, Wagner published on social networks the images of the killing of a deserter, killed with sledgehammers. A dog’s death… for a dog, coldly commented on the boss of the paramilitary group.

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