A power struggle has been smouldering among Russia's powerful military leaders for weeks. © Collage: IMAGO / UPI Photo / ITAR-TASS
Russia's power elite continues to rumble. Wagner boss Prigozhin makes serious accusations against Shoigu - and sees "dangerous games" of the Kremlin.
Moscow – Russia has become increasingly on the defensive over the Ukraine war. Recently, even partisans are causing a stir by attacking the Russian Belgorod region. These negative reports for Putin are coupled by an ongoing public power struggle between the various strong military men.
Particularly in focus: Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin. He has been complaining about Putin's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for weeks. He is said to have supplied his Wagner troops with no ammunition. Now Prigozhin claimed that troops of the Russian minister had placed anti-tank mines and other explosive devices along the routes that the Wagner troops would use to retreat from Bakhmut. This is reported by the military experts of the Institute for the Study of War and speaks of "dramatic accusations".
"Public flogging": Prigozhin makes "dramatic" accusations
According to the report, the explosive devices were carried out behind the front line without Ukrainian activity. Prigozhin's assumption was that Shoigu's Ministry of Defense probably intended that the Wagner soldiers would fall into the traps and thus ensure a "public flogging" of the mercenary troops.
But Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is also playing an important role in the increasingly confused power struggle. Last week, for example, several Chechen commanders verbally attacked Prigozhin. Later, Kadyrov and Prigozhin are said to have settled the dispute in a telephone conversation. Prigozhin claims that he called Kadyrov. However, the Wagner boss suspects that a group in the Kremlin may have triggered the conflict between the two powerful military leaders.
He insinuates that Vladimir Putin's center of power in the Kremlin often plays "dangerous games" that endanger inter-ethnic relations in Russia.
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The ISW experts suspect that Prigozhin may indeed have been interested in not having an open dispute with Kadyrov. This is supported by the fact that he had not, as is usually the case, openly complained about his commanders in messages or videos. Prigozhin does not want to have another prominent siloviki (powerful figures from the Russian security apparatus) against him.
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According to the experts, Prigozhin's latest action is also an attempt to bring himself and his dispute with Shoigu back into the focus of the Russian public. His tirades have been ubiquitous in Russia in recent weeks. The criticism of the Kadyrov military was therefore the first time that other military officers appeared so prominently here.
Prigozhin then immediately followed up with the next tirade against Shoigu, which must sound almost like a threat to him. Prigozhin stated that his Wagner fighters would not wait for permission from the Ministry of Defense to come to the Belgorod region and defend Russia there. In doing so, he is taking advantage of Russian discontent with the handling of the attack on his own territory and directing it against Shoigu. (rjs)