Wagner leader calls for attack on Russian military as feud escalates


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Russian strongman Yevgeny Prigozhin has threatened to attack Russian forces in retaliation for what he claimed was an air strike against his own paramilitaries, as he unleashed his most vitriolic tirade against his country’s military leadership thus far.

Prigozhin, founding father of the notorious Wagner mercenary group, said in a video on Friday that a “huge number” of fighters had been killed within the alleged air strike and that Wagner would “reply to this evildoing” by launching a “march of justice” against Russia’s army.

In response, the FSB, Russia’s predominant security service, “has launched a criminal case over calls for an armed rebellion”, Russia’s national anti-terrorism committee said, based on state newswire Ria Novosti. “We demand to stop these illegal actions directly.”

Russia’s defence ministry dismissed Prigozhin’s claims as an “information provocation”. Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, said the Russian leader was aware of Prigozhin’s statements and that “all essential measures are being taken”, without elaborating, based on Ria Novosti.

The threat comes just hours after Prigozhin accused the Russian military of deceiving Putin into invading Ukraine in a separate tirade, signalling a recent, more aggressive phase of the strongman’s offensive against the Kremlin’s war planners.

“The evil brought by the country’s military leadership have to be stopped. Those that destroyed our boys today and ruined the lives of many tens of hundreds of our soldiers will likely be punished,” Prigozhin said.

Without explaining what specific steps Wagner would take, Prigozhin added: “I ask that no one resist. We’ll consider everyone who resists to be a threat and destroy them directly.”

He claimed “presidential power, the federal government, [and] other structures” would work as normal, while Wagner “deals with the people destroying Russian soldiers and return to the front”.

Prigozhin, who emerged as one among the crucial leaders of Russia’s invasion since Wagner took a number one role on the front lines, has been embroiled in a feud for several months with defence minister Sergei Shoigu, who Prigozhin has accused of sabotaging the war effort along with Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russia’s general staff.

He claimed Shoigu had ordered the alleged air strike in secret, then “ran away like a bitch to avoid explaining why he sent helicopters to destroy our boys”.

In his earlier video on Friday, Prigozhin claimed Russia’s defence ministry concocted false pretences to trick Putin into invading Ukraine and said Moscow could have avoided the war entirely.

Prigozhin claimed Russia had faced no immediate threat from Ukraine when Putin began his full-scale invasion last yr and accused the military’s top brass of deceiving the president for their very own personal gain.

Prigozhin’s regular diatribes, through which he claims Russia runs the danger of losing the war after Ukraine began a counteroffensive earlier this month, had indicated elite infighting was getting fiercer as Moscow’s war effort continues to struggle.

Though Prigozhin notably avoided criticising Putin personally and has backed the war’s goals, the video was the primary time he publicly questioned Russia’s rationale for the full-scale invasion.

“There was nothing out of the atypical on February 24,” said Prigozhin, referring to the day Putin ordered the invasion in 2022. “The defence ministry is attempting to deceive the president and society by saying Ukraine was going mad with aggression and was planning to attack us along with the entire Nato bloc.”

As a substitute, Prigozhin claimed Shoigu had convinced Putin the war was needed so “a bunch of bastards could rule the roost and exhibit about what a powerful army they’ve”, then botched the invasion through “incompetent planning”.

“For some reason, this bunch of idiots thought they were so smart-assed that no one would understand what they were as much as or stop them on their solution to Kyiv,” he added.

In a rustic where “discrediting the armed forces” is punishable with as much as 15 years in prison, Prigozhin, who has known Putin since their days in St Petersburg within the early Nineteen Nineties, was widely believed to have the Russian president’s approval for his attacks on the military.

Prigozhin’s rant on the war’s failures notably absolved Putin himself or the FSB security service, which played a way more distinguished role in planning the invasion than the military.

Putin admitted earlier this month that he had personally pardoned convicts in order that they might be released to fight in Ukraine — a recruitment technique pioneered by Prigozhin when he raised a prisoner army to fight within the “meat grinder” of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

After Russia captured town last month, nonetheless, Putin backed Shoigu’s efforts to bring irregular units similar to Wagner under the military’s control.

Since then, Wagner’s troops have been absent from the front lines, and Prigozhin has solid doubt on whether they may return in any respect.

He said Russia’s army continued to deceive Putin in regards to the success of Ukraine’s counteroffensive and warned that it risked leading the country to wreck on the battlefield.

“What they’re telling us is a complete fraud. We’ll only face the reality when [ . . . ] this bunch of bastards realise they’ve already pissed away an enormous piece of territory and declare they’re regrouping somewhere higher,” he said. “The enemy is penetrating our defences all of the more deeply.”

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