The relationship between Wagner Group and the Kremlin is once again on edge. Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mercenary army would again be deprived of ammunition by the Russian Defense Ministry. A representative of Wagner was also said to have been denied access to a building of the Russian army command. “If we have to withdraw, the entire front in Donetsk will collapse,” warns Prigozhin.
The mercenary boss was already furious about the Kremlin at the end of February. Then he spoke of “high treason” and “deliberate destruction of the Wagner Group”, again because of failure to deliver ammunition.
Moscow denied the allegations. A day after Prigozhin’s outburst of anger, the air between the parties seemed cleared and became new ammunition deliveries promised.
But the soldiers of the Wagner Group still do not have the new bullets, says Prigozhin in plain language. “We are investigating whether this is a bureaucratic blunder or high treason,” he said.
Wat doet de Wagner Group voor Rusland?
- De Wagner Group vecht al maandenlang aan de zijde van de Russen, vooral in de Oost-Oekraïense stad Bakhmut.
- Prigozhin wil president Vladimir Poetin de stad in feite ‘cadeau’ doen, zodat hij zijn invloed in Moskou kan vergroten.
- Officieel heeft Wagner geen banden met het Kremlin. Maar het huurlingenleger staat erom bekend vrijwel altijd het buitenlandbeleid van Moskou uit te dragen.
‘We are being pushed towards defeat’
Prigozhin suspects senior Russian officials want his troops to suffer defeat at Bakhmut. “But if we are forced to withdraw, the entire front will collapse like a house of cards,” he warns.
Wagner’s forces surrounded the Ukrainian defenses in Bakhmut from three directions. Only one way out would be available for a tactical withdrawal. It took Wagner more than half a year to get the Ukrainian defense in this position.
And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is not yet thinking about withdrawing. He just announced on Saturday that elite troops will be sent to Bakhmut to strengthen the remaining defenses. His advisers have already admitted that a withdrawal is “not out of the question”.
Resentment was also visible earlier this year
The cracks in the relationship between the Wagner Group and the Kremlin had been visible for some time. Earlier this year, for example, Prigozhin was stripped of the right to recruit Russian prisoners for his private army. According to the Reuters news agency, that step was taken because other Russian ministers believed that Prigozhin was given too much power.
Last year, Wagner managed to ‘recruit’ some 20,000 to 40,000 prisoners. If they went to fight for Wagner, they would get a reduced sentence. But the West suspects that many of them were forcibly sent to Ukraine.