The confidant who unburdened himself to the Russian president Vladimir Putin recently on the management of his army in the war of Ukraine it was Yevgeny Prigozhinthe founder of a Russian mercenary group that is playing a key role in Moscow on the battlefield in Ukraineaccording to two US officials familiar with the matter.
The reviews of Prigozhin they echoed what he has been saying publicly for weeks, said the officials, who spoke anonymously to discuss the sensitive intelligence. But the revelation that he felt comfortable sharing such a harsh rebuke of the Russian military effort with Putin in a private setting shows how his influence is increasing as the war of Moscow It staggers. He also highlights the instability of the official Russian defense leadership, which has been criticized for Prigozhin and others after months of mistakes and losses on the battlefield.
Washington Post previously reported that a Russian insider personally confronted Putin to highlight mismanagement of the war effort, but did not name that person. The Post reported that the exchange was deemed important enough to be included in the daily intelligence briefing provided to the president Biden.
The frustration of Prigozhin with the Ministry of Defence Russian and his growing tension with the Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoiguare also the subject of a separate US intelligence report that has been circulating among officials in Washingtonaccording to people who have read the file.
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During years, Prigozhin operated in the shadows of Russian power, denying ties to the notorious Russian mercenary group Wagner and the factory trolls of internet of St. Petersburg which, according to US authorities, he financed to interfere in the 2016 presidential campaign in USA. He helped promote the foreign goals of the kremlin outside the formal structures, and earned the nickname “putin’s chef” because he owned a restaurant in St. Petersburg that Putin frequented and from a catering company that boasts of having lucrative contracts with the State and the city of Russia.
But in the last few weeks, Prigozhin has come to the fore in a dramatic debut in Russian public life, admitting for the first time his leadership in Wagner and publicly attacking the Russian military leadership for its mistakes.
“That is the public policy position he has been insisting on: I am Yevgeny Prigozhin. I’m here to tell the truth, and I’m going to get the job done.a US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter and speaking generally about Prigozhinnot about intelligence regarding their interactions with Putin.
According to the US intelligence report that has been circulating in Washington, Prigozhin has expressed his opinion that the Russian Defense Ministry relies too much on Wagner and is not giving the mercenary group enough money and resources to fulfill its mission in the conflict, people who read the report said.
intelligence officers of USA they think that Prigozhin posted a recent video on social media showing soldiers from Wagner complaining about the lack of food and basic supplies as a means of putting pressure on the kremlin to increase the funding of his mercenary group.
“Prigozhin’s decision to confront Putin is just the latest sign of his discontentsaid one person who read the report.
Prigozhin denied recent personal contacts with Putin in comments to Washington Post made late on Monday through its press service.
“First of all, I have not personally communicated with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin either recently or in the foreseeable future. I have not criticized the conduct of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation during the conflict in Ukraine. So I can’t comment on anything.”, he said, adding that he had no right to criticize or praise the work of the Russian armed forces, since he was not a military expert.
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He also said that he had not seen any video in which the security forces Wagner They will complain about food and provisions.
Prighozin he often harshly criticizes journalists who ask him questions and has on occasion told Russian reporters to go to the front and fight against Ukraine. In addition to his denials, Prighozin issued a vulgar and sexist diatribe against American journalism and The Postreferring to the “bazaar women in the kitchen, collecting gossip and speculation” and complaining about the “ridiculous provocative and offensive questions”.
The spokesman for kremlin, Dmitry Peskovdeclined to comment on the interaction between Prigozhin Y Putin.
Since the war began, Prigozhin has used the defense minister, Shoiguand to the main uniformed generals as his adversaries, positioning himself as an unapologetic leader capable of showing results on the battlefield in Ukraine.
His paramilitary group – made up of battle-hardened veterans accused of human rights violations who operate outside the formal Russian military structure – has been carrying out an offensive to seize Bakhmuta city in the region of Donetsk in the hands of Ukrainian forces. Some analysts see it as an attempt to show that his soldiers can make progress even while the rest of the Russian military lags behind.
The result is an apparent revival of his status in the inner circle of Putinwhich had allegedly been endangered before the war by disputes with high-ranking Russian officials.
“It’s been really on the up all these last few months“, said marlene laruelledirector of the Institute of European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies from George Washington University. “The war gave him the possibility to access Putin more than ever.”
With figures like Prigozhin and the Chechen leader appointed by the kremlin, Ramzan Kadyrovpublicly expressing his criticism of the Russian military, “the shadow aspect of the Russian state is becoming more and more visible”, he said laruelle.
to the interaction between Putin Y Prigozhin a more ruthless Russian approach to war has followed.
After the repeated setbacks of the Russian army, which meant the loss of more than 3,000 square miles of territory, Putin first elected a commanding general to lead the war effort in Ukraine. This month’s appointment filled a leadership void that military analysts had cited as one of the reasons why Moscow he had been struggling with command and control of his forces.
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Prigozhin praised the choice of Putin in a statement published by his catering company on the Russian social network V.K.in which he rated Sergei Surovikinthe new commanding general, of “legendary character” born to serve the country and “the most competent commander” of the Russian army. Surovikin earned the nickname “general armageddon” in Syria after the Russian military became known for its indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets.
In Ukraine, Russia has also recently pivoted to harsher tactics targeting civilians, especially after the humiliating bombing of the bridge in early October crimea that joins Russia with crimea. Moscow has launched missiles in the center of Kyiv for the first time in months and has targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure with a limited supply of precision-guided munitions to cause blackouts. And it has begun using Iranian combat drones to attack critical infrastructure and terrorize civilians.
Hardliners, including those who support Prigozhinhad been urging the kremlin to use more scorched earth tactics against urban centers, regardless of their impact on the civilian population of Ukraine. The last movements of Putin they have been served.
“He thinks he can still win, and so he’s throwing everything he can into the situation.“, said Fiona Hilla former high-level official of the White House dealing with Russian and Eurasian affairs. “Now we’re in that period where he’s trying to push us into his version of the endgame. The guy thinks he can pull it off.”
Earlier this month, Prigozhin said in a statement posted on social media that Russian military officials were not aware of the situation on the ground in Ukraine. “I think we should send all these barefoot bastards to the front lines with machine guns,” he said.
It is not clear if Prigozhin is primarily focused on gaining more influence within the Russian defense establishment or if he harbors greater political ambitions for himself or those close to him.
Since public criticism of Putin are still a taboo Shoigu It has borne most of the frustration over the conflict and in recent months has been “sidelined within the Russian leadership, as operational commanders report directly to President Putin on the course of the war,” according to an assessment by the British Ministry of Defense in August.
The ministry said that Shoigu he is struggling to overcome his reputation for “lacking substantive military experience, having spent most of his career in the construction sector and in the Ministry of Emergency Situations”.
Prigozhinfor its part, is presented as a more extreme and open-ended alternative.
A video that began circulating on Russian social media in September showed Prigozhin recruiting potential fighters in a Russian prison. Later, Prigozhin responded to criticism of its prisoner recruitment efforts in a statement posted on V.K. for your catering company.
“Those who don’t want mercenaries or prisoners to fight… those who don’t like this issue, send your sons to the front,” he said. Prigozhin. “It’s them or their children, decide for yourselves.” A week later, Putin ordered the mobilization of what the Russian Defense Ministry said would be 300,000 reservists to replenish depleted forces. The move caused hundreds of thousands of able-bodied men to flee Russia to avoid being called into battle.
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Before the war started to go bad for the Russian military, it was “not conducive” for critics to hog the spotlight. But “people like Prigozhin now see an opportunity to grab the bronze ring“, said Hillnow a principal investigator at the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution. “This really shows that the system is under stress, when people start pushing themselves like this.”
Prigozhin has far outgrown his humble roots as a hot dog vendor in the hometown of Putin, Leningrad. He spent nine years in prison for robbery and other crimes, and later co-founded casinos and a floating restaurant, where he personally catered to Putinthen new president of Russiaas well as the president George W Bush. He then opened a catering business that obtained contracts with the Russian government. After years of denials, he only recently admitted publicly that he founded Wagner in May 2014 to support Russian-backed separatists in their effort to gain control of the Ukrainian region of donbas.
The Treasury Department of USA imposed new sanctions on Prigozhin in March due to the participation of the Wagner Group in the war. Before that, he was already sanctioned and charged for USA for financing the Internet Research Agencya factory of trolls Russians that, according to US intelligence agencies, was part of an effort by the kremlin to interfere in the 2016 elections. USA has said the group has sought to spread “false narratives online” seeking to undermine governments in USA, Asia, Europe and other places.
His years in prison and his rocky beginnings probably bred resentment against political elites and those who enjoyed privilege after the collapse of the Soviet Unionsaid laruelle.
The war has contributed to his ambition. “wants political recognition“, said. “Money is not enough. I think he cares a lot about having an official status.”
The increasingly prominent public role of figures such as Prigozhin Y Kadyrov in the war effort is irritating some Russian officials, who see them as rogue players playing by their own rules. “Having leaders like Prigozhin and Kadyrov – they [el establishment] they cannot live with this anymore,” a Russian official said in an interview. “This is not Russia. It is a criminal brotherhood based on the principles of the Middle Ages”.
(C) The Washington Post.-