The head of the private military company Wagner unleashed a damning threat to Russia’s military leadership as he blamed them for “tens of thousands” of Wagner casualties.
In a video posted on the Telegram messaging app, Yevgeny Prigozhin stood in front of piles of dead bodies which he claims are his fighters killed in the war against Ukraine.
The Wagner chief blasted Russian defence bosses as he exploded: “We are lacking 70 per cent of the needed ammunition!” during the clip uploaded on Thursday.
While shining flashlight on the corpses laying near what appears to be the front lines of the war, Prigozhin claims they are the casualties of just one day of fighting.
The head of the private military company Wagner unleashed a damning challenge to Russia’s military leadership
“Shoigu, Gerasimov, where … is the ammunition?” he said, calling out Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and chief of the Russian armed forces Gen. Valery Gerasimov.
“The blood is still fresh,” he says, pointing to the bodies behind him. “They came here as volunteers and are dying so you can sit like fat cats in your luxury offices.”
Russia expert Matthew Chance described extraordinary clip as a landmark moment in the Ukraine war.
He said: "It is absolutely stunning in a country where criticism and dissent is just not tolerated that you can see this man, Yevgeny Prigozhin, stand there and swear about the defence minister, swear about the commander of the military and criticise how the war in Ukraine is being conducted - and get away with it!"
Now Prigozhin has threatened to withdraw his troops from Bakhmut if Moscow doesn't provide more ammunition.
His threat was repeated in a statement posted to Telegram on Friday, with the chief saying his private military company would leave Bakhmut on May 10.
“The dead and wounded – and that’s tens of thousands of men – lie on the conscience of those who did not give us ammunition, and this is Defense Minister Shoigu and this is Chief of the General Staff Gerasimov," he said.
“For tens of thousands of those killed and wounded, they will bear responsibility before their mothers and children, and I will make sure of that."
In the same video message, Prigozhin praised the former Deputy Defense Minister Mikhail Mizintsev, who has recently joined the Wagner Group as its deputy commander.
Prigozhin’s call for more ammunition is not the first time he has complained of receiving insufficient support from the Kremlin.
Founder of Wagner private mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin ranting surrounded by his fighters
On Friday, he said: “I declare on behalf of the Wagner fighters, on behalf of the Wagner command, that on May 10, 2023, we are obliged to transfer positions in the settlement of Bakhmut to units of the Defense Ministry and withdraw the remains of Wagner to logistics camps to lick our wounds.
“I’m withdrawing Wagner PMC units because without ammunition, they are doomed to a senseless death."
His newest challenge to Russian defence officials comes as Bakhmut remains heavily contested.