Wagner warlord Vevgeny Prigozhin has claimed he has been told of a plot spearheaded by Vladimir Putin to undermine and ‘neutralise’ the feared Russian mercenary group.
Prigozhin claimed he received a series of questions from Russian newspaper Nezivisimaya Gazeta that apparently exposed the plot to ‘neutralise’ Wagner and the warlord in particular.
Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia‘s Security Council, is said to have told Putin that he believes after the Ukraine war, Prigozhin will try to unite his mercenaries and send them to Russia to ‘seize power’ in the regions bordering Ukraine before potentially advancing inland.
Patrushev allegedly said in the meeting that he has already ordered for Russian troops to observe Wagner mercenaries and control their movement over fears they could rise up against Putin. A paranoid Putin reportedly thanked Patrushev for his efforts to ‘neutralise Wagner in general and Prigozhin in particular’.
However, experts from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) have cast doubt on Prigozhin’s claims he received media questions exposing the plot and said there is no evidence that the discussions between Putin and Patrushev occurred.
Instead, the experts claim Prigozhin has fabricated the alleged plot in a bizarre attempt to smear Russia’s military establishment and set ‘careful information conditions to blame Patrushev for Wagner’s failures and potential crackdowns against the group’.
Wagner warlord Vevgeny Prigozhin (pictured with Putin) has claimed he has been told of a plot spearheaded by Vladimir Putin to undermine and ‘neutralise’ the feared Russian mercenary group
Ukrainian soldiers of the Paratroopers’ of 80th brigade fire a mortar shell at a frontline position near Bakhmut, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Thursday
Since Putin’s war began in Ukraine, Prigozhin has been publicly critical of Russia’s army and military leadership – and his fondess for lambasting top army brass and anyone else in his way has angered some in government who want him reined in.
Now, murky claims have emerged that Putin is plotting to ‘neutralise’ Wagner and Prigozhin – or so the warlord would like it to seem.
Prigozhin’s press service yesterday published a series of questions allegedly sent to the Wagner chief by the Nezivisimaya Gazeta newspaper about an apparent meeting between Putin and Patrushev – details of which were apparently circulating on Telegram.
The alleged press comment claims that Patrushev told Putin there will be ‘nothing left’ of the Wagner group in ‘one and a half to two months’ due to the sheer scale of losses in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut where the mercenaries are fighting Ukrainian troops.
Patrushev also allegedly suggested that upon Wagner’s destruction in Ukraine, Prigozhin will ‘try to unite the former and remaining active Wagner fighters under a far-fetched pretext and using the resources at his disposal, he will organise, arm and send them to the territory of Russia in order to seize power in the regions bordering Ukraine was a possible advance inland’.
In response to the alleged press comment, Prigozhin posted an audio clip in which he said he had not heard of the alleged plot, saying that Russian special services should work to neutralize threats to Russia regardless of where they come from.
However, experts from the ISW said there is no evidence to suggest that the discussions between Putin and Patrushev had occurred.
They also pointed out that Nezivisimaya Gazeta has not published the press comment on its own site – and there is no record of the comment online other than in reference to Prigozhin’s post.
‘The lack of external confirmation on this subject suggests that Prigozhin has fabricated the alleged plot to further several information operations on behalf of Wagner and his own reputation,’ the experts said in their latest report.
Ukrainian soldiers of the Paratroopers’ of 80th brigade take cover as they fire a mortar shell at a frontline position near Bakhmut, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Thursday
Nikolai Patrushev (pictured), the head of Russia’s Security Council, is said to have told Putin that he believes after the Ukraine war, Prigozhin will try to unite his mercenaries and send them to Russia to ‘seize power’ in the regions bordering Ukraine before potentially advancing inland
Wagner mercenaries at Popasna, the Sievierodonetsk district of the Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine
The ISW experts said the exchange ‘clearly identifies’ Patrushev and possibly the Russian Security Council as ‘enemies’ of Wagner.
‘Prigozhin appears to be setting careful information conditions to blame Patrushev for Wagner’s failures and potential crackdowns against the group, as well as introducing an invented scenario wherein Wagner poses a direct threat to Russia domestically,’ the experts said.
‘This effort appears to be the next evolution of Prigozhin’s campaign against the Russian military establishment, and Patrushev could become Prigozhin’s next target after his concerted informational campaigns against the Russian Ministry of Defense and General Staff,’ they added.
Prigozhin has become somewhat of a headache for Putin and Russia’s defence chiefs since the war began.
He has emerged from the shadows to assume a high profile since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But his public profile, political influence, and fondness for profanely lambasting top army brass and anyone else in his way has angered some in government who want him reined in.
Indeed, Prigozhin has continued to demand for Russia to supply him with more ammunition, reinforcements and covering support if he was to win the months-long battle of attrition for Bakhmut.
In January, ISW experts claimed that Putin had turned against Prigozhin after he ‘failed to take the hint’ and kept on bragging that his forces were achieving more success than Russia’s army.
And the Wagner chief has risked further angering the Russian President by dismissing Moscow’s generals as ‘a bunch of clowns’.
Prigozhin is increasingly seen as posing a rising threat to the Kremlin leader with his daily grandstanding and outspoken boasts.
In January, he claimed his ragbag fighters have achieved heroics greater than Soviet soldiers at the Battle of Stalingrad, a key military turning point in the Second World War.
He has also openly mocked General Valery Gerasimov – the Russian commander-in-chief – who ordered that Russian soldiers should shave off their beards as part of a discipline drive in the armed forces.
Russia’s defence chiefs were ‘a bunch of clowns’ seeking the ‘glamorisation of the army’, raged Prigozhin, a Soviet-era jail inmate who came to fame arranging banquets and managing online troll factories for Putin.
‘Female war correspondents go into the absolute heat of [war],’ said Prigozhin.
‘Jail inmates fight better than units of the Guards. Servicemen with broken spines pass on their military experience at training camps, moving around like robots.
‘And a bunch of clowns try to teach fighters exhausted with hard military labour how many times they ought to shave — and what kind of perfume they must use to greet high commanders.’