Wagner chief launches scathing new attack on Putin’s war strategy

Head of mercenary group claims that Russia could lose war in Ukraine unless changes are made by the Kremlin leadership

Martha McHardy
Wednesday 24 May 2023 17:12 BST
Watch: Head of Russia’s Wagner group claims to have captured Bakhmut

The head of the Wagner mercenary group chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has launched a scathing new attack on Vladimir Putin‘s invasion strategy, claiming that Russia could face a revolution similar to 1917 and lose the war in Ukraine unless changes are made by Kremlin leadership.

The Wagner chief, who was once a close ally of the Russian president, said Moscow’s invasion has seen Ukraine amass “one of the world’s strongest armies” with Western support.

“We made Ukraine a nation, known to everyone around the globe,” he said in an interview with prominent Russian pro-war blogger Konstantin Dolgov. “They are like Greeks at their peak, or Romans.”

Mr Prigozhin said Ukraine now has more tanks and more troops than it did at the start of the war. “We militarised it up to the brim,” he said.

“I think Ukrainians today are one of the world’s strongest armies. They have high levels of organisation, training, and military intelligence,” he added.

The Wagner chief has publicly feuded with Russian defence officials and military chiefs recently. In May he threatened to withdraw his troops from the besieged eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, citing a lack of ammunition received from Putin’s government. Russia has reecntly claimed to have taken control of Bakhmut, a symbolic target for both Kyiv and Moscow, but Ukrainian officials have denied they are in total control of the area.

Mr Prigozhin has harshly criticised the Russian military for losing ground around Bakhmut and exposing the flanks of his forces battling for the city, causing at least 10,000 Wagner troops, mainly convicts and volunteers, to die.

“During the [special military operation] I pulled out 50,000 inmates from jails,” he said. “Twenty per cent of them died.”

Prigozhin claims his forces have taken control of the city of Bakhmu

Mr Prigozhin has also warned Russia could face a revolution, and he blamed defence minister Sergei Shoigu and chief of the defence staff Valery Gerasimov for the war crisis.

“Without a doubt the death penalty will be brought back, because we are in a state of war,” he said.

“And the guilty people will receive their punishment – as a minimum, they’ll be hanged on the Red Square.” He criticised elites in Russia for living comfortably while troops are dying on the front lines, saying their sons should go to war. "This divide can end as in 1917 with a revolution," he said.

“When you bury them, the rest of Russian parents who receive their kids in zinc coffins would feel that now the situation is right. If this doesn’t happen, we risk revolution,” he added.

In the interview Mr Prigozhin warned that Russia could lose the war in Ukraine, warning he “hardly believes” Russia can hold on to the territory it has claimed to control.

The “pessimistic scenario” is that Ukraine “will restore the borders to [the way they were in] 2014,” he said, meaning before Moscow illegally annexed the region of Crimea. “And this can easily happen. They will attack Crimea, will try to blow up the Crimean bridge, cut off the supply routes.

“And most likely the scenario won’t be good for us,” he said. “Therefore, we need to prepare for a heavy war.”

He continued: “We are now in a state where we can simply lose Russia. Therefore, we must introduce martial law, we must announce new waves of mobilisation, we must transfer everyone we can to the ammunition production.

“We must stop spending money on nothing, stop building new roads, new infrastructure facilities and work only for the war.

“Russia needs to live like North Korea for a certain number of years, to close all borders, stop playing nice, take all our offsprings from abroad and work hard. Then we will see some results.”

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