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Russian Wagner Group Owner Accuses Defense Ministry of 'Treason'

AP Photo/Libkos

All is not well in the private Russian army known as the Wagner Group, an adjunct to the regular Russian military. The billionaire owner of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been spouting off about supplies, especially ammunition, not going to his fighters.

Wagner troops are currently engaged around the key administrative hub of Bakhmut — of minor strategic importance. It’s not going particularly well. In fact, Prigozhin has been complaining bitterly about his men getting slaughtered for lack of air transport and ammunition.

According to Prigozhin, the Ministry of Defense and the chief of the General Staff gave orders not to supply the controversial private army with ammunition or assist it with air transport.

Prigozhin is a close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but Putin appears to be siding with the Ministry of Defense in this bureaucratic war. And that could be a major reason Prigozhin is running his mouth about “treason” being committed by top Russian military leaders.

“There is quite simply direct obstruction going on,” Prigozhin said in an audio statement published by the Concord Group, another of his companies.

“This can be equated with high treason,” he said, adding that because of the lack of ammunition, his men were “dying en masse.”

Moscow Times:

Prigozhin and the Ministry of Defense have clashed repeatedly in the past. In January, Prigozhin accused the Russian military of attempting to take credit for Wagner group victories in the conflict, claiming that his forces had captured the eastern Ukrainian salt-mining town of Soledar without any involvement from the Russian military.

The Ministry of Defense denied the charges.

Associated Press:

In a statement, Russia’s Ministry of Defense denied “excited declarations” that ammunition had been held up for volunteers in “assault detachments” fighting around Bakhmut, and said priority had been given to making sure those groups were well equipped. The ministry did not identify whose declarations it was responding to.

It concluded: “Attempts to create a split in the tightknit machinery of cooperation and support between subdivisions of the Russian forces are counterproductive and only benefit the enemy.”

Prigozhin should be careful. Many people who have criticized the war effort have ended up taking the wrong step off a hotel balcony or suddenly died of undiagnosed heart disease.

Putin may be engineering a defeat for Prigozhin in his failure to take Bakhmut or bleed Wagner dry of its best soldiers in the attempt. As loyal as Prigozhin might be, Putin has shown himself to be paranoid about any rivals for his power. And running a private army not under the Kremlin’s total control is an anomaly in the tightly controlled Russian hierarchy.

Putin may be trying to cut Wagner down to size by allowing him to bleed out in front of Bakhmut. To Putin’s way of thinking, the war won’t be won or lost with Wagner group cannon fodder dying for a non-strategic piece of ground around Bakhmut. And even Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sees it that way.

“Yes, it is not a particularly big town,” Zelenskyy said of Bakhmut. “In fact, like many others in Donbas, (it’s been) devastated by the Russians,” Zelenskyy told Italian publication Corriere della Sera in an interview published Sunday, per Reuters.

“It is important for us to defend it, but not at any price and not for everyone to die,” he added.

So Zelensky also wants to bleed the Wagner group in front of Bakhmut. No wonder Prigozhin is angry.

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