Amid infighting among Putin’s lieutenants, head of mercenary force appears to take a step too far
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FILE – Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin attends the funeral of Dmitry Menshikov, a fighter of the Wagner group who died during a special operation in Ukraine, at the Beloostrovskoye cemetery outside St. Petersburg, Russia, on Dec. 24, 2022. Prigozhin’s criticism of the top military brass is in stark contrast with more than two decades of rigidly controlled rule by President Vladimir Putin without any sign of infighting among his top lieutenants. (AP Photo, File)
For months, the outspoken millionaire head of the Wagner private mercenary force bombarded Russia’s military leaders with expletive-ridden insults in a rift that has weakened the country’s forces amid the war in Ukraine.
Yevgeny Prigozhin accused them of not providing him with munitions in the key battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut.
A video in May showed him standing in front of the bloodied bodies of his slain troops yelling obscenities at Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the chief of the General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov, calling them weak and incompetent, blaming them for the carnage.
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“They came here as volunteers and they died to let you lounge in your mahogany offices,” Prigozhin declared. “You are sitting in your expensive clubs, your children are enjoying good living and filming videos on YouTube. Those who don’t give us ammunition will be eaten alive in hell!”
He even made what some considered a thinly veiled jab at President Vladimir Putin as an oblivious “granddad” thinking the invasion was going well.