The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has launched a series of outspoken attacks on the country’s military leadership in recent weeks that point to mounting internal divisions within Putin’s invading army as it prepares to face a potentially decisive Ukrainian counteroffensive.
In one of his most recent rants, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin mocked Russian Defense Ministry claims of a “redeployment to defensive positions” near to the hotly contested city of Bakhmut and warned that in reality, the front was in danger of collapsing. “The Defense Ministry’s attempts to cover up the situation will lead to a global tragedy for Russia,” he stated on May 12. “They must stop lying immediately.”
Over the past fifteen months of the Ukraine invasion, Wagner has emerged as the only group within the Russian military to meet or surpass expectations. While units of the regular army have been decimated and forced into a series of humiliating retreats, Wagner has achieved numerous grinding advances in eastern Ukraine. This has given Prigozhin the confidence and the clout to name and shame his superiors for their alleged shortcomings. Such attacks have only added to his popularity among Russian audiences.
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[ Editor’s Note: It would probably be a good idea if Yevgeny avoids having tea with Putin for the near future.]