- “The conflict between the Ministry of Defense and Yevgeny Prigozhin, who financed the Wagner Group, reached its peak in the context of the Bagmud War” – ISW assesses
- As ISW reminds us, the Ministry of Defense cut off the Wagner group’s ability to recruit additional forces through prisoner recruitment and had limited access to ammunition, which Prigozhin publicly complained about.
- The actions of Shoigu and Gerasimov may be revenge for the confrontation Prigozhin started last May when he managed to gain Putin’s support.
- Putin, a risk-averse player, may have decided to reduce the threat by strengthening the Defense Ministry, according to the think tank.
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The conflict between the Ministry of Defense and Yevgeny Prigozhin, who finances the Wagner Group, has reached its climax. In the context of the Battle of Pakmut“in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, the US think tank writes in a recent report.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and General of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov wanted to remove the Wagner group’s forces (both trained mercenaries and prisoners) in Bagmut in order to weaken Prigozhin and thwart his ambitions to increase his influence. The Kremlin.
As ISW reminds us, the Ministry of Defense cut off the additional forces of the Wagner Group by recruiting prisoners and having limited access to ammunition, which Prigozhin publicly complained about. He also alleged that the army authorities had deliberately allowed Wagner Group’s forces to be destroyed in Bagmutil raids and street fighting in order to spare regular troops.
Contrary to Prigogine’s expectations, the Ukrainian decision not to withdraw from Bagmut led to heavy losses in his forces and the need to use better-trained, “elite” forces from the ranks of the Wagnerites, which now had to be replenished.
The Internal Affairs Agency believes that such a situation could favor the Russian Ministry of Defense, as it would cause heavy losses in Wagner’s group and weaken Prigozhin’s position at the same time.
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Shoigu and Gerasimo’s actions may be retaliation for the conflict initiated by Prigozhin in May last year, who managed to gain Putin’s support, largely by convincing the dictator to increase the involvement of the Wagner group’s forces. It avoids mobilization through additional recruitment in prisons. At the same time, Prigozhin played on the defeats of the command and regular army in Ukraine to strengthen his position. He openly criticized the leadership of the Ministry of Defense and the military command, supported by sympathetic ultranationalist “military bloggers” on social networks.
“Putin’s decision to side with Prigozhin infuriated Shoigu and Gerasimov, who were ordered to share limited equipment and ammunition with the mercenaries,” ISW estimates.
With the support of Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya, Prigozhin used the army’s failures and his influence to instigate personnel changes in the army, such as the dismissal of General Alexander Labin, who was responsible for the defeats at Lyman, and the promotion of General Sergey Churovykin. Commander-in-Chief of the Invasion Forces in Ukraine
“Prigozhin probably did not want to threaten Putin directly, but Putin perceived his aggressive self-promotion as a threat at the expense of others he trusted,” ISW assesses.
Putin, a risk-averse player, may have decided to reduce the threat by strengthening the defense ministry, according to the think tank.
Wagner’s group was cut off from recruiting prisoners, and the Ministry of Defense began its own recruitment in penal colonies. In January, Putin finally allowed the Ministry of Defense to take control of the Pakmut battle; Prigozhin did not fulfill his promise to capture the city by the end of 2022. Surovikin was dismissed and Gerasimov assumed direct command of the invasion force in Ukraine.. Official statements by Russian authorities excluded the participation of Wagner’s group in the capture of Soledar, attributing it to regular forces.
According to ISW, Putin and the Ministry of Defense could use Prigozhin as a scapegoat for the losses in Pakmut once the offensive subsides. At the same time, according to analysts, Prigozhin will not regain the favor of the Russian dictator, which he enjoyed from May to October 2022. The fate of him and the Wagner group is not sealed and depends on how effectively Prigozhin convinces. Kremlin of his loyalty.
Investigating the conflict, the Internal Affairs Institute says that various parties in Putin’s inner circle are competing against each other in “zero-sum games” (i.e. games that can only be won at the expense of one party), which usually do not exist. conducive to achieving the goals set by the Kremlin.
“The Ministry of Defense considers the elimination of the Wagner group a priority in the fighting in Bakhmut, which slows down progress in this sector. Prigozhin saw Bakhmut as an opportunity to gain leverage and influence over the Ministry of Defense. The Kremlin, in pursuit of its own business and political ambitions, would avoid the negative impact of mobilization that would hinder its efforts in Ukraine. Putin used the Wagner Group to protect the regime.
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