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ISW: Prigozhin softened rhetoric towards Russian Ministry of Defense likely out of fear of losing his mercenary force in Bakhmut
Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin emphasized his concerns about a possible Ukrainian counteroffensive in eastern Ukraine during a 23-minute interview on March 23.
He claimed that Ukraine has 200,000 reserves concentrating on attacking along the entire eastern front line, into Belgorod Oblast, and in Bakhmut. Prigozhin also said that Ukrainian forces currently amount to 80,000 troops in Bakhmut, Sloviansk, and Kostiantynivka to counterattack Bakhmut – a claim that former Russian officer Igor Girkin observed was dubious.
"Prigozhin‘s exaggerated statements about the imminent threat to Russian forces are likely an attempt to secure more supplies and reinforcements from the Russian MoD to save his forces in Bakhmut," the Institute for the Study of War explained in its recent update.
He also made several positive statements about the Russian Ministry of Defense, even acknowledging that Russian MoD forces are fighting alongside Chechen units in Bilohorivka, Luhansk Oblast.
The ISW notes that Prigozhin also denied the Kremlin’s claims that Russia is fighting NATO in Ukraine and questioned whether there are actually Nazis in Ukraine, as the Kremlin constantly claims. "Prigozhin effectively rejected the Kremlin’s pre-war and post-war claims that Russia needed to defend itself against a NATO threat in Ukraine and undermined the necessity and probability of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated maximalist objectives for this invasion," according to the ISW.