17 January 2023

Russia’s Defense Ministry praises Wagner Group mercenaries

  • Soledar is a small town 10 kilometers north of the larger Bakhmut which Russian mercenary forces have been trying and failing to capture since the summer. Wagner founder, Evgeny Prigozhin, announced the capture of Soledar on Jan. 12. The next day, the Defense Ministry reported the “liberation” of Soledar, but its press release made no mention of Wagner.
  • In response, Prigozhin said that “someone is constantly trying to rob [the Wagner Group] of its victory.” About eight hours later, the ministry circulated a new statement that admitted that direct attacks on Soledar were undertaken “by the courageous and selfless actions of… Wagner assault squads.”
  • The dispute between Prigozhin and the Ministry of Defense is long running. The businessman has reportedly criticized the performance of military commanders in face-to-face conversations with President Vladimir Putin and believes that the ministry “relies too much” on fighters from his group.
  • The conflict entered a new phase in late December when the mercenaries released a video calling Valery Gerasimov, head of Russia’s General Staff, a “fag” and a “damned fucker.” Wagner’s soldiers have complained about a lack of ammunition and support from the army. Prigozhin openly supported the men who made the video.

Why the world should care

Prigozhin, the leader of a paramilitary group with no legal status in Russia, has nothing like the resources of men and equipment available to the Armed Forces. However, Wagner has significant media resources, which can sometimes be just as powerful.

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