Tortured soldiers and stolen tanks: The Russian army's accusations against the Wagner Group are piling up and causing controversy at the front.
Bakhmut – Ukraine's large-scale counteroffensive in the defensive war against Russia has apparently begun. Ukrainian troops are reportedly trying to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in Russian lines. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the army was adequately equipped for a major military advance.
And for Ukraine, quarrels with the enemy could be an advantage, because Russia's army threatens to sink into chaos in the midst of a power struggle. The Wagner Group apparently plays a major role in this. A Russian lieutenant accuses the mercenaries around Yevgeny Prigozhin of fomenting "anarchism" at the front.
Tensions between Wagner Group and the Russian army from day one
The friction between Russian forces and the Wagner Group, which is supposed to fight the Ukrainian army together, is coming to a head. Recently, the battle for Bakhmut is said to have even led to military clashes. According to Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary force, Russian soldiers fired on members of the Wagner group.
Immediately they "took retaliatory measures" and arrested and interrogated the commander of the 72nd brigade of the Russian army, Roman Venevitin. In a video released by Prigozhin, Venevitine confessed to ordering the attack on a Wagner convoy because of "personal hostilities" and drunkenness and apologized.
In the meantime, Venevitin has been released again. In a new video obtained by several media outlets, he has commented directly on the incidents near Bakhmut and the Wagner Group. "Tensions between Wagner and my brigade and I began on the very first day of our transfer to the Bakhmut direction," The Guardian quotes Venevitine as saying. The lieutenant defended the Russian army and the Kremlin.
Wagner Group allegedly stole tanks
"The anarchism that the Wagner Group is raising at the front is the result of a game of political elites trying to weaken our president instead of defending him," he said. "Not only by provoking our fighters by their brazen behavior and involving them in conflicts, but also by their concrete actions." Venevitin reported that his soldiers had been systematically kidnapped and abused, sometimes sexually. According to the Guardian, he used an expression that stands for rape of prisoners in prison.
Yevgeny Prigozhin in a video message from Bakhmut at the end of May 2023. A lieutenant of the Russian army accuses the Wagner boss of mistreating his own soldiers. (Archive photo) © UPI Photo/Imago Images
Tank attacks launched: Ukrainian offensive breaks through Putin's front line
"Putin's decline": President shies away from citizens' questions on state TV
Blown up dam: Is the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant now threatening a worst-case scenario?
Russia rejoices: But has Ukraine even launched the counteroffensive?
Putin 'under greater pressure than ever': Russia's elite no longer believes in their president
In addition, the Wagner Group stole two T-80 tanks, four machine guns, a truck and an armored combat vehicle from the Russian army. Prigozhin, Venevitine accuses him, wants to "actively discredit the armed forces of the Russian Federation" and portray the Wagner Group as "the only effective force in this conflict." According to several observers, Venevitin did not speak freely in the video, but read out a prepared statement. It is unclear whether he was forced to denounce the Wagner Group. The video of his interrogation by Wagner was only made under pressure, he said.
Prigozhin has already denied the army's new accusations. They are "complete nonsense". According to the Wagner chief, his troops had detained Venevitin, interrogated him and handed him over to the authorities. Whether a case against Venevitin is underway, investigators have not confirmed, according to the Guardian.
Prigozhin against Russia's army and the Kremlin
Not only against the military and political leadership of Russia, but also against the 72nd Motorized Rifle Brigade of the Russian army, Prigozhin seems to be waging a personal campaign of revenge. He claims that the unit abandoned its position on the outskirts of Bakhmut, exposing Wagner's troops to the threat of a Ukrainian attack.
According to a British intelligence report, the brigade is emblematic of Russia's weaknesses in the Ukraine war. The association is said to have poor morale and ineffectiveness. The fact that the 72nd Brigade is currently being deployed in the area of the heavily contested city of Bakhmut shows that the Russian armed forces lack reliable units.
Meanwhile, Yevgeny Prigozhin repeatedly shoots at Russia's elite. Should President Vladimir Putin be overthrown, the Wagner boss is considered by observers to be a possible successor in the Kremlin. (LRG)