The conflict between the Ministry of Defense of Russia and the head of PMK “Wagner” Yevgeny Prigozhin is reaching a critical point against the background of the battle for Ukrainian Bakhmut. Analysts of the American Institute for the Study of War write about this. British intelligence reports that the total losses in the “Wagner” group exceeded 50% of the original composition. Prigozhin himself complains about the shortage and lack of supplies of ammunition, FREEDOM informs.
“Wagner” PMK has been fighting in the Bakhmut area since July 2022. Despite repeated claims to capture the city, the Russian mercenaries did not make significant progress. Even last summer, the head of the Communist Party of Ukraine Prigozhin promised to capture Bakhmut in a short period of time, but the Armed Forces of Ukraine are on the defensive.
“They are already running out of attack aircraft. They are trying to force the Ukrainian army to leave Bakhmut, so that we stop defending the city, and thereby take it with little blood. But they have already lost so many people that a catastrophe for the Wagner PMC and the Russian army is simply inevitable,” said the commander of the unit of the Armed Forces with the call sign “Kurt”.
Trying to capture the Ukrainian Bakhmut, PVK “Wagner” suffers significant losses. The number of killed and wounded already reaches 30,000 people. Previously, PMK “Wagner” compensated for its losses in Russian prisons, but Prigozhin lost this opportunity due to disagreements with the Ministry of Defense of Russia. Now he is directing efforts to recruit ordinary Russians, according to British intelligence.
“Since the beginning of March 2023, “Wagner” has created visiting groups in sports centers in no less than 40 settlements throughout Russia. In recent days, “Wagner” recruiters have also held career talks at Moscow universities, handing out questionnaires called the “young warrior questionnaire” to collect contact details of interested students,” writes British intelligence on Twitter.
Experts of the American Institute for the Study of War assume that the Minister of Defense of Russia Shoigu and the Chief of the Russian General Staff Gerasimov took advantage of the opportunity and are deliberately exhausting the forces of “Wagner” in Bakhmut. The goal is to weaken Prigozhin’s influence and undermine his ambitions for authority in the Kremlin.
“The conflict between the Ministry of Defense of Russia and PVK “Wagner” shows that different parties in Putin’s inner circle compete with each other and do not contribute to Putin’s common goals. The Russian Ministry of Defense is currently prioritizing the elimination of the Wagner anti-aircraft missile system on the battlefields of Bakhmut, which is likely to slow down the pace of progress in the area,” says the weekly report of the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
According to CNN, the “Wagner” PEC, being in Bakhmut, receives the least support from the regular troops of the Russian Federation. Prigozhin himself constantly complains about the lack of ammunition. According to Russian political analyst Ivan Preobrazhenskyi, the Kremlin is thus gradually handing over Prigozhin to his competitors — Shoigu and Gerasimov.
“It is obvious that Putin left him to the generals. The generals and many others, in fact, whom Prigozhin managed to touch, have a tooth for him. And, most likely, he will be removed completely from the Russian political and peri-political space. He had grown too large and bloated during the war. He obviously saw in it an opportunity to seriously increase his influence and seize access to the distribution of cash flows within Russia itself,” Russian political analyst Ivan Preobrazhenskyi believes.
The political scientist does not rule out that Prigozhin can not only be completely removed from politics, but also eliminated physically. First of all, he can be blamed for Russian military failures.
“Prigozhin is a convenient target on which to hang the main failures on the Eastern Front, the failures of the occupation forces, since we see that neither last month nor last week Bakhmut was taken. Although “Wagner” was given much more than regular Russian military personnel, not to mention ordinary mobilized ones,” noted political scientist and head of the Strategy Analysis Center Ihor Chalenko.
Against this background, Prigozhin himself is trying to create an information field, allegedly without him and his PMK, Russian troops will have to fight for a very long time. But political scientists still call Prigozhin a decommissioned pilot for the Kremlin. It’s just a matter of time.