Prigozhin Denies Reports that Wagner Is Leaving Ukraine
Wagner group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin has denied Bloomberg’s earlier report suggesting that the Russian mercenary group is tired of losing in Ukraine and is setting its sights more closely on Africa where it has deepening influence.
Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said in a post on Telegram that he does not know what Bloomberg is reporting about.
“Apparently, they know better than myself what we will do further,” the Wagner leader wrote. “As long as we are needed by our nation, we will fight on the territory of Ukraine.”
Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the matter, said that Prigozhin is scaling back Wagner’s Ukraine operations after Russian military chiefs cut key supplies of munitions and manpower. A top Russian military official reportedly interfered to divert Wagner’s prison recruitment scheme to the Defense Ministry, effectively cutting off Prigozhin’s main source of recruits.
The cuts came as Prigozhin continued to draw criticism from senior military officials as Bakhmut, Wagner’s main target in Ukraine, remains elusive after months of attempts and heavy casualties. Prigozhin publicly criticized Russia’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) and blamed military chiefs for his group’s failures in Bakhmut.
Earlier in March, Col. Serhiy Cherevaty, a spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern group of forces called Bakhmut Wagner’s “last stand.” Ukrainian officials said that 30,000 of Wagner’s 50,000 men have either deserted, or were killed or wounded mostly around the Bakhmut in what would be the longest battle of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
A recent update from the Institute for the Study of War says that the Wagner leader has “softened his rhetoric” towards the MoD. Prigozhin expressed concerns over a possible Ukrainian counteroffensive at the eastern border, and warned the Russian military and media to “stop underestimating Ukrainian forces and engaging internal conflicts.”
While Prigozhin denies scaling down operations in Ukraine, he has recently called more attention to Wagner’s operations in the African region, even taunting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a letter that was also posted on Telegram.
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