Wagner’s owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has threatened to withdraw his troops from the battle to seize the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. The longest battle of the war began with Wagner’s arrival in Bakhmut. Prigozhin has been at odds with Russia’s regular military over war credit and tactics for a long time. Prigozhin is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The wealthy tycoon has spearheaded the initiative to revive Russia’s offensive in Donetsk. He threatened to withdraw because of the heavy losses and lack of supplies.
After Russia acquired the Crimean Peninsula in April 2014, Wagner made his first appearance in eastern Ukraine. Although Russia supports the rebels in the Donbas, it has denied delivering them any military aid. Moscow may say they are not hiring any outside firms. Human rights violations committed by Wagner mercenaries have been reported in Libya, Mali, and the Central African Republic.
Prigozhin, 61, spent 12 years in prison and used his connections to the Russian government to found, lead, and fund the catering company Wagner. He went to work in the press and a “troll factory.” Wagner participated in the Syrian civil war on the side of President Bashar Assad. They fought in Mali and the CAR for the same reason: control of mineral-rich regions. In July of 2018, Wagner was accused of killing three Russian journalists who were investigating the group in the Central African Republic.
Prigozhin accused the Russian Defense Ministry of stealing Wagner’s glory by taking credit for seizing the salt-mining town of Soledar in the Donetsk region in January. He has gone to Russian prisons in search of recruits, promising them forgiveness if they serve with Wagner on the front lines for six months. As regular Russian troops have suffered heavy casualties and lost land in humiliating losses, Wagner’s prominence in the Ukraine fight has grown.
Prigozhin’s long-standing dispute with Russian military leadership is fueled by his worries that the Russian force does not have enough ammo to seize Bakhmut. Prigozhin is making waves in Russia’s tightly controlled political system by making accusations of ineptitude against high-ranking military officers. Prigozhin’s daily posts on the messaging app boast about Wagner’s victories, jokingly insult his opponents, and gripe about the top brass in Russia’s armed forces.
Yohann Michel, a research expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, questioned Prigozhin’s departure threat. Prigozhin might require more ammunition, a chance to regroup without being blamed for retreating, or the fear of losing his job if the city is not taken. Michel advises Prigozhin that pulling Wagner’s forces out of Bakhmut will have disastrous results. His removal from the front lines would signal the end of Russia’s offensive in its current form, he claimed.
The United States claims that Wagner has 40,000 inmates and 10,000 contractors fighting in Ukraine. A U.S. official estimates that Wagner’s men in Bakhmut have killed 10,000 of Russia’s 20,000 troops in Ukraine since December. The United States government believes that Wagner spends $100,000,000.00 per month on the war effort. In December, the United States claimed that North Korea had violated U.N. Security Council resolutions by shipping rockets and missiles to a Russian company.