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Tensions rose this past week between Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner, Russia’s paramilitary group, and Russian officials when the Wagner chief threatened to pull his forces out of Bakhmut if the Russian Defense Ministry didn’t provide the organization with the necessary arms to continue the offensive. Wagner and Russian troops control 90 percent of the destroyed city.
“I am appealing to Sergei Shoigu with a request to issue ammunition immediately,’ Prigozhin said last week. “Now if this is refused… I deem it necessary to inform the commander-in-chief about the existing problems, and to make a decision regarding the feasibility of continuing to station units in the settlement o fBakhmut, given the current shortage of ammunition,” he cautioned in statements.
According to Prigozhin, there have been “useless and unjustified” casualties due to a lack of supplies.
On Friday, the Wagner head increased his threat by setting a withdrawal date of May 10 if the required arms and ammunition were not provided. Prigozhin’s move was surprising to many observers as it was a clear and direct threat made to Russia’s top military leadership.
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However, in an audio message posted on Telegram, Prigozhin stated that he had received overnight notification that Wagner would be receiving all the necessary arms it had requested, according to Zerohedge.
“We are promised to be given ammunition and weapons as much as we need to continue further actions,” the statement said. Prigozhin also noted that he had been given the authority to fight “as we see fit.”
Wagner’s recent threats have begun to expose a rift within the Russian Defense Ministry. Prigozhin has continuously accused the regular military command of “betraying” his forces by withholding ammo. The dispute between Wagner and the regular military came to light when a statement released by Wagner regarding taking Soledar gave no mention or credit to the military. The infighting has been on public display since and is sure to be an embarrassment to Russia as it faces NATO and its Western allies.
Despite having previously called out the Defense Minister and top armed forces commanders in a post on Twitter, Prigozhin is still clearly influential not only in the Kremlin but also with Putin.
As the internal conflict between military leaders and Wagner heats up, Russia is scurrying to declare a total victory in Bakhmut before its national ‘Victory Day’ on May 9. It could still be an unlikely victory though as Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut continue their fierce defense of the city. According to Prigozhin’s most recent statements, Russia now holds 95 percent of the demolished city.
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