The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group accused the country’s defense minister and its most senior general of treason on Tuesday, intensifying the most high-profile dispute in the Russian forces since the invasion of Ukraine began.
Wagner’s founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has been taking aim at military leaders in a series of increasingly hostile audio messages on social media this week, accused the “chief of the general staff and minister of defense” of withholding ammunition and supplies from his fighters to try to destroy Wagner, “which can be equated to treason.”
“A bunch of military-related officials have decided that it is their country, that it is their people,” Mr. Prigozhin said in one profanity-laden audio message published by his press service on Tuesday. “They have decided that these people will die when it is convenient to them, when they feel like it.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry denied Mr. Prigozhin’s claims, and raised the stakes by indirectly accusing the Wagner leader of damaging the war effort.
In a statement released on Tuesday night, the Defense Ministry listed the amounts of ammunition and fire cover provided in recent days to “volunteer storm units,” its euphemism for Wagner.
“Attempts to sow rifts in the tight mechanism of cooperation and support among the units of Russian forces are counterproductive and are only aiding the enemy,” the ministry said.
Mr. Prigozhin’s vitriol highlighted the increasingly tense competition for resources among Russian military leaders as the war in Ukraine enters its second year, said Dmitri Kuznets, a military analyst for the independent Russian news outlet Meduza. He said it also showed how the war was reshaping Russian politics. [Continue reading…]