War of Words Between Russian Military and Wagner Boss Heats Up

A war of words between Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the paramilitary Wagner Group, and Russia's Defense Ministry over the conduct of the war in Ukraine is escalating.

In an audio clip posted by the Concord company, owned by Prigozhin, he accused the Russian government of lying about providing the Wagner Group, which has been heavily engaged in fighting around Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, with the ammunition it needs.

Composite Photo, Yevgeny Prigozhin and Vladimir Putin
In this combination image, a file photo of Yevgeny Prigozhin (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) arrives to deliver his annual state of the nation address in central Moscow on February 21, 2023. Getty

Twitter user Dmitri of the War Translated project, an independent project concerned with translating various materials about the war in Ukraine, uploaded the clip late on Tuesday, writing: "Prigozhin's drama continues."

"Russian MoD [Ministry of Defense] in a statement earlier today said any complaints made by assault forces on the lack of ammo are untrue. Prigozhin responded again by saying it was a lie, and spitting into the faces of "heroes" by MoD, committing a crime against them," he tweeted.

In the audio statement, Prigozhin, who earned himself the nickname "Putin's chef" for his catering contracts with the Kremlin, said he was told that Russia's Defense Ministry is spreading the information that "they allegedly distribute ammunition to volunteer units in the Bakhmut direction."

"I'd like to emphasize again, if we moved to a public correspondence with the Ministry of Defense, that Wagner PMC is not receiving 80 percent of ammo required to complete combat objectives," he went on.

"Therefore, the announcement by the Ministry of Defense is nothing more than spit towards the Wagner PMC, and an attempt to hide their crimes against the fighters who are today completing a feat in Bakhmut."

The Wagner Group, which consists largely of recruited Russian convicts, had been leading an offensive alongside Russian troops against Bakhmut in the Donetsk region since July.

However, Prigozhin has been sidelined by the Kremlin in recent weeks, with the Wagner Group now seeming to play a less prominent role in operations around Bakhmut. Prigozhin has published several clips alleging that the Russian Defense Ministry is not providing the group with the ammunition it needs in its Bakhmut offensive.

Prigozhin said the Wagner Group is the only "volunteer unit" currently operating in Bakhmut.

"There is no ammunition. The sapper shovels, for your knowledge, gentlemen leaders of the [Russian] Ministry of Defense, are still not provided," he said. "If you're going to provide ammo, do it, and don't talk about it on the media to the Russian people, deceiving them at the same time."

Prigozhin added: "Unlike the Ministry of Defense and its announcements, I'm ready to provide all documents including all requests and received numbers to the military prosecution or counter-intelligence, your choice. Immediately, upon their request."

On Tuesday, he also accused Russia's Defense Ministry of treason by intentionally not providing his troops with ammunition. He said his fighters are "dying en masse" because of this.

"There is quite simply direct obstruction going on," Prigozhin said in an audio clip published by Concord. "This can be equated with high treason."

Last week, he blasted Russia's "monstrous military bureaucracy" for its failure to seize Bakhmut before the end of last year.

Newsweek has contacted Russia's Defense Ministry for comment.

British defense officials said earlier this month that attempts by Russian forces to restart offensive operations in Ukraine were being hampered by problems with manpower and ammunition.

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