Wagner leader denies relationship with defense ministry has improved

Vasco Cotovio and Anna Chernova

The boss of Russian private military company (PMC) Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has seemingly denied that his relationship with the Russian defense ministry has improved.

It comes after the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington-based think tank, suggested in a report that the relationship between the two parties had been “repaired,” with the view of getting Russian President Vladimir Putin to halt offensive operations in Ukraine.

“ISW has observed a sudden improvement in Prigozhin’s relations with the Russian MoD (Ministry of Defense) and the Kremlin since early April,” ISW said in its report on April 22.

“The Russian MoD, for example, began to directly acknowledge Wagner forces in its daily situational reports and provided Wagner with ammunition and mobilized personnel as reinforcements in early April 2023.”

But when asked about the report, Prigozhin called it “fake news.”

“There is a lot of fake news planted, and this is one of them,” he said in his official Telegram channel. I am not going to exchange ammunition for my guys even for friendship with the Lord God.”

Some background: Prigozhin has not shied away from publicly commenting on his differences with Russia’s leadership. Prigozhin has been highly visible on the front lines in recent months and is quick to claim credit for Russian advances.

A Ukrainian military intelligence report obtained by CNN detailed the remorseless tactics used by Wagner. The report, dated December 2022, concluded that “the deaths of thousands of Wagner soldiers do not matter to Russian society.”

In January, a former Wagner mercenary said the brutality he witnessed in Ukraine ultimately pushed him to defect, in an exclusive CNN interview.


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