This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin again accused the Russian Defense Ministry of failing to supply his mercenary fighters with enough ammunition and accused Russian troops of fleeing fighting around the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
Prigozhin’s comments, made in one of several messages released by his press service on May 9, were the latest in his long-running public feud with top Russian military officials.
Last week, he threatened to pull Wagner forces out of the Bakhmut region, where they’ve played a central role in the months-long pitched assault on the city, by May 10 unless they got more ammunition. Days later, he appeared to relent.
He also appeared in a separate, gruesome video that featured piles of corpses, whom he said were slain Wagner soldiers.
Prigozhin posted several videos and audio messages before and after the Kremlin staged the annual Red Square Victory Day parade in Moscow, to commemorate the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
In the longest of the messages posted on Telegram, Prigozhin hurled a profanity-laced diatribe at military officials, saying they were incapable of defending the country.
“Instead of fighting, we constantly have all these intrigues. We have a Ministry of Intrigue instead of a Ministry of Defense, and so our army is on the run,” he said. “It is running, because the 72nd brigade today lost three square kilometers, and I lost about 500 people because it was a strategic bridgehead,” he said.
Russian soldiers were fleeing, he said, because of the “stupidity” of Russian commanders who were giving “criminal orders.”
“Soldiers should not die because of the absolute stupidity of their leadership,” he said
There was no immediate way to confirm Prigzohin’s comments, which were amplified further by military bloggers and nationalist supporters.
The Defense Ministry had no immediate response.
Russia has suffered about 200,000 casualties during the 14-month war, according to Western estimates, and continues to lose dozens a day in Bakhmut. Russian forces have been besieging Bakhmut since last summer and are now believed to control as much 75 percent of the city, if not more.
“A combat order came yesterday which clearly stated that if we leave our positions [in Bakhmut], it will be regarded as treason against the motherland,” Prigozhin said in the message.
“(But) if there is no ammunition, then we will leave our positions and be the ones asking who is really betraying the Motherland,” he added.