Wagner mercenary group leader Prigozhin accuses Russia’s defense ministry of “treason”
Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin accused the leadership of the Russian Defense Ministry of what he called “treason” for an alleged attempt to destroy his private military company, in an audio recording published Tuesday by his press service on Telegram.
“The Chief of the General Staff and the Minister of Defense are handing out commands right and left, that the Wagner PMC should not receive ammunition, they are also not helping with air transport,” Prigozhin claimed in the recording.
“There is direct opposition, which is called nothing more than an attempt to destroy PMCs,” he said. “This can be equated to high treason now when Wagner PMC are fighting for Bakhmut, losing hundreds of their fighters every day.”
In the audio recording, a seemingly frustrated Prigozhin also complained about the high number of deaths within Wagner, citing a consistent lack of supplies.
“Wagner PMCs do not have ammunition. Why do the rest of the units also have a constant shortage of ammunition? A handful of military functionaries decided that this is their country, their people, who decided that these people would die when it suits them,” he said.
CNN cannot independently verify Prigozhin’s claims about the Defense Ministry and an ammunition storage.
Some key background: Tuesday’s comments echo comments that Prigozhin made on Monday, when he claimed twice as many fighters of Wagner and other military units are dying every day “due to total shell hunger when we’re not allowed to use what there is in warehouses.”
The Wagner leader, who has no official position, has been unusually public in his criticism of some of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s generals. He has been in a long-standing feud with the Ministry of Defense, publicly blaming the current leadership for heavy losses and defeats in Ukraine.
While he once operated mostly in the shadows, his profile has grown in recent months as leveled scathing public criticism at Russian military officials for their failures in Ukraine while supplying thousands of Wagner forces – many recruited from prisons – to wage war in the country’s east.
The US government estimates that the Wagner group has suffered more than 30,000 causalities, including roughly 9,000 dead in the battle for the city of Bakhmut. About half of those 9,000 have been killed since mid-December, US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said last week. And about 90% of those killed in December were recruited from Russian prisons, he said.
CNN’s Sam Fossum contributed reporting to this post.