MOSCOW - Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin said his representative had been denied access to the headquarters of Russia’s military command in Ukraine on Monday, in a further deepening of his rift with the defence establishment.
Mr Prigozhin said the incident came the day after he urgently requested ammunition supplies from the commander of what Russia calls its “special military operation” (SMO).
“On March 5, I wrote a letter to the commander of the SMO grouping about the urgent need to allocate ammunition. On March 6, at 8am, my representative at the headquarters had his pass cancelled and was denied access,” Mr Prigozhin said via his press service on Telegram.
Since mid-January, Russia’s campaign in Ukraine has been commanded personally by the chief of the general staff, Army General Valery Gerasimov.
Mr Prigozhin’s private militia, Wagner, has led much of the heaviest fighting for the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, but he has complained bitterly for weeks that the military leadership is belittling its contribution.
In a video published at the weekend, he repeated earlier complaints that his men were being deprived of ammunition.
“If Wagner retreats from Bakhmut now, the whole front will collapse,” Mr Prigozhin said in the video, apparently filmed in a bunker.
“The situation will not be sweet for all military formations protecting Russian interests.”
Reuters could not independently verify when and where the video, which was not published on Mr Prigozhin’s usual Telegram channel, had been recorded. A prominent critic of the mercenary boss said, without providing evidence, that it was two weeks old.
Mr Prigozhin had said on Friday that his units had “practically surrounded Bakhmut”, where fighting has intensified in the past week after months of attritional warfare, with Russian forces attacking from three sides.
In Monday’s statement, he said: “We are continuing to smash the Armed Forces of Ukraine near Bakhmut.” REUTERS