Prigozhin announces that Wagner forces won’t be withdraw from Bakhmut, despite Russian Defense Ministry failing to provide additional shells – ISW

Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin announced that Wagner forces will not withdraw from Bakhmut by his previously stated deadline of May 10, despite the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) failing to provide Wagner with additional shells, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said in its Russian offensive campaign assessment for May 9.

“Prigozhin added that the Russian MoD order threatened Wagner with treason if Prigozhin withdrew his forces from Bakhmut, likely one of the reasons why Prigozhin is not following through on his May 5 threat to withdraw from Bakhmut if the Russian MoD failed to fully supply Wagner with ammunition by May 10, a threat he dropped on May 7,” the ISW analysts said.

Prigozhin’s failure to follow through on his May 5 withdrawal threat indicates that he is cognizant of his dependence on the Russian MoD. Prigozhin attempted to blackmail the Russian MoD into reprioritizing the Bakhmut offensive so he could independently claim victory in the city at the expense of the Russian military’s likely preparations ahead of the planned Ukrainian counteroffensive. Prigozhin likely expected the Russian MoD to entirely cave to his demands at the risk of abandoning their own objectives for regular Russian forces but likely realized he cannot follow through with his ultimatum at this time. Prigozhin also likely anticipated that General Seregi Surovikin would be able to coerce the Russian MoD into satisfying Wagner’s demands; but his inability to reach Surovikin, if true, indicates that Prigozhin does not have as much leverage within the Russian MoD as he imagined.

Prigozhin continued to blame high casualties and the slow pace of advances in Bakhmut on other Russian irregular formations to frame Wagner as the only competent force operating in the area. Prigozhin seized the Victory Day holiday as an opportunity to mock Russian President Vladimir Putin and question his judgment.

“Prigozhin referred to a ‘happy grandfather’ figure who ‘thinks that he is good’ during a discussion of ammunition shortages and Russia’s future prospects in Ukraine. Prigozhin then rhetorically asked what Russia and future generations should do and how Russia can win if the ‘grandfather’ turns out to be a ‘complete asshole.’ Prigozhin also noted that unnamed figures (likely referring to Putin and the senior Russian MoD figures) should stop showing off on Red Square. Prigozhin is likely referring to Putin, who is often referred to as ‘grandfather’ (or more specifically ‘Bunkernyi ded’ or ‘bunker grandfather’), and Prigozhin has previously attacked other senior Russian officials and officers by name — but has not done so against Putin. Prigozhin has previously attempted to upstage Putin’s authority through similar rhetorical stunts,” the analysts said in the report.

Menawhile, Putin attempted to use Victory Day celebrations to rally Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) partners, many of which have sought to reduce their reliance on the Kremlin since February 2022. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedov, and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev joined Putin at the Moscow Victory Day parade in Red Square.

“Putin emphasized the importance of CIS leaders attending the event and repeated boilerplate Kremlin rhetoric that Russia is pursuing a multi-polar world order. Putin’s latest efforts to rally CIS countries were muted by the reluctance of several Central Asian leaders initially expressed towards attending the Victory Day event, and Lukashenko did not join the rest of the leaders at an earlier wreath-laying ceremony,” says the report.




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