The infighting between Wagner Group mercenary firm and Russia’s defense ministry has come to a head, as on Friday Wagner chiefYevgeny Prigozhin declared he’s withdrawing his forces from Bakhmut on May 10 for lack of ammunition. He’s issued fierce complaints for weeks that ammunition is being withheld from the military chain of command as internal tensions have exploded into public view.
“I declare on behalf of the Wagner fighters, on behalf of the Wagner command, that on May 10, 2023, we are obliged to transfer positions in the settlement of Bakhmut to units of the Defense Ministry and withdraw the remains of Wagner to logistics camps to lick our wounds,” Prigozhin said.
“I’m withdrawing Wagner PMC units because without ammunition, they are doomed to a senseless death,” Prigozhin continued, asserting that his firm had fallen “out of favor with envious near-military bureaucrats.”
The day prior to this he issued a separate dramatic battlefield video on Telegram declaring “We are lacking 70% of the needed ammunition!” The clip is dramatic and disturbing as it shows Prigozhin standing over dozens of his fighters killed on the Ukrainian battlefield, while blaming their deaths on lack of adequate support.
In the video, he expressly calls out the defense minister and chief of the armed forces: “Shoigu, Gerasimov, where … is the ammunition?” says Prigozhin. “The blood is still fresh,” he says of bodies around him. “They came here as volunteers and are dying so you can sit like fat cats in your luxury offices.”
It is by far the most scathing attack on the regular chain of command as well as unsupportive politicians at home launched by the Wagner chief, following weeks of public verbal denunciations and even warnings to take the matter directly to Putin, who is no doubt fully aware of the spat. The Thursday social media message included the following moment:
“These are someone’s f**king fathers and someone’s sons. And you f**kers who aren’t giving [us] ammunition, you b*tches, will have your guts eaten out in hell!” yelled Prigozhin in Thursday’s video.
⚡️Prigozhin statement translated via an AI:
(note: 2022, not 1922) pic.twitter.com/Whh0jQ6ncm
— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) May 5, 2023
Prigozhin has already threatened to quit Bakhmut before – but it would be a huge blow to the Russian advance there, given they already control some 90% of the strategic city in Donetsk oblast. There’s growing speculation that this rift has sparked elite infighting within the halls of the Kremlin.
He’s repeatedly charged the regular military command with “betraying” his fighters by withholding ammunition in the ongoing spat which became public with the Russian seizure of Soledar. A Wagner statement at the time declared victory over the city for itself, but controversially didn’t acknowledge the role of the regular military. The infighting has increasingly been out in the open since then, and is no doubt somewhat of an embarrassment while facing down NATO and the Western allies.
Prigozhin spoke about the heavy losses of PMCs due to lack of shells
The founder of the private military company (PMC) Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, showed on the video the losses suffered by the PMC in one day, and also demanded that the Russian Ministry of Defense provide more shells. The video in Telegram was published by his press service.
According to Prigozhin, at the moment the PMC receives only 30 percent of the necessary ammunition. With 100% deliveries, he argues, the company loses five times fewer people.
The head of Wagner demanded the supply of all the necessary ammunition, and also showed on video several dozen bodies of PMC fighters who died in one day of a special military operation (SVO).
Earlier, Prigozhin said that the Ukrainian counter-offensive had already actually begun , he noted the “highest activity” of Ukrainian aviation and active military operations along the perimeter and inside the front. In his opinion, the offensive may soon move into an active phase.
On May 2, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that this year the army had already received “enough ammunition to inflict effective fire damage on the enemy.” He also noted that the country has begun mass production of the latest types of weapons, the development of which was completed in the shortest possible time.
PMC “Wagner” planned to take Artemovsk by May 9th. Why does Prigozhin want to leave the city now?
Units of the private military company (PMC) “Wagner” will leave their positions in Artemovsk (the pre-revolutionary name adopted in Ukraine – Bakhmut) on May 10, 2023 due to a lack of ammunition, said the head of the PMC , Yevgeny Prigozhin .
Why is Wagner leaving?
According to Prigozhin, due to a shortage of shells of 90 percent, PMC Wagner suffers unjustified losses while storming the city.
I am withdrawing Wagner units from Bakhmut, because in the absence of ammunition they are doomed to senseless death
The council of Wagner commanders chose May 10 as the day for the withdrawal of their units in order to celebrate Victory Day with the “brilliance of Russian weapons,” Prigozhin said. He also stated that it was planned to take Artemovsk by May 9, 2023, but this was not possible due to a lack of ammunition.
Now PMC “Wagner” is waiting for combat orders to leave the city. After May 10, Russian fighters will leave for rear camps to “lick their wounds.”
The Kremlin’s reaction
“Of course, we saw it in the media, but I can’t comment on it, because it concerns the course of a special military operation.”
On the morning of May 5, before the publication of the statement about the withdrawal from Artemovsk, Prigozhin recorded a different video message in which he showed the losses suffered by PMC Wagner in one day of fighting, and associated them with a lack of shells.
According to Prigozhin, the divisions of his company receive only 30 percent of what they need, and with a 100 percent supply of ammunition, losses become five times less.
On the eve of Prigozhin’s statements, it became known that Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev , who was previously dismissed from the post of Deputy Minister of Defense of Russia , became the deputy commander of the Wagner PMC.
The new deputy commander of Wagner was told about the advancement of Russian units in the city and the activity of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU).
These events unfold against the background of increased activity of the Armed Forces of Ukraine along the front line. The day before, Ukrainian units tried to conduct reconnaissance in force in the area of Vogledar of the Donetsk People’s Republic and to carry out similar actions near Orekhov in the Zaporozhye region.
I believe that the offensive of the Ukrainian army has already begun
According to him, the “highest activity” of Ukrainian aviation is noticeable, as well as the active actions of the military along the perimeter and inside the front. According to Prigozhin, the Armed Forces of Ukraine can go into the active phase of the offensive within a few days.
Kadyrov turned to Shoigu after Prigozhin’s words about Artemovsk
The head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov , turned to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu after the words of the head of the private military company (PMC) Wagner Yevgeny Prigozhin about the threat of the withdrawal of his units from Artemovsk (Ukrainian name – Bakhmut). Kadyrov published his appeal on Telegram .
The council of Wagner commanders chose May 10 as the day for the withdrawal of their units in order to celebrate Victory Day with the “brilliance of Russian weapons,” Prigozhin said. He also stated that it was planned to take Artemovsk by May 9, 2023, but this was not possible due to a lack of ammunition. Now PMC “Wagner” is waiting for combat orders to leave the city. After May 10, Russian fighters will leave for rear camps to “lick their wounds.”
Kadyrov promised that if the PMC really leaves the territory, then the military of the Chechen special forces “Akhmat” will come in their place. The head of Chechnya said that the military is already ready to advance and occupy the city, for this they will need several hours. “But I would like us to take the remaining two kilometers of the city not at the cost of the lives of soldiers, but as a result of mutual understanding, support, determination of the command and fighters to fulfill the order of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of Russia, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin,” Kadyrov wrote .
At the same time, the head of the Russian region admitted that the Chechen units also had problems with ammunition. For example, he said that the Ministry of Defense issued only one tank in the Mariupol direction, while five were needed to successfully complete the operation. In addition, the commander of the special forces “Akhmat” and the deputy commander of the 2nd army corps of the People’s Militia of the LPR Apti Alaudinov , according to Kadyrov, often experiences problems with ammunition, but he “never announced this publicly via the Internet, but only on the internal connection with management.
“I really hope that Sergei Kuzhugetovich will heed my call, and an order will be given to the General Staff to go to the place and sort things out. This is the only and soldierly correct way out of the situation, ”Kadyrov concluded, noting that the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff almost always met the Chechen units and helped.
Earlier, Prigozhin showed on video the losses suffered by PMCs in one day, and also demanded that the Russian Ministry of Defense provide more shells. According to Prigozhin, at the moment the PMC receives only 30 percent of the necessary ammunition. With 100% deliveries, he argues, the company loses five times fewer people.
Whenever he is under stress what seems to be a neurological condition becomes very obvious.