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Peskov claims Kremlin hasn't seen Wagner boss Prigozhin's latest video on conflict with defense ministry
Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitrii Peskov has said that the Kremlin has not yet seen the May 9 video posted by Wagner mercenary group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, in which the latter claims that Wagner has still not been given the ammunition requested from Russia's defense ministry.
"You know what we were doing, yesterday," said Peskov in a press briefing on May 10 as cited by Russian media, "there were many guests, many events," referring to the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow on the previous day.
In the video, posted by Prigozhin's press service, the Wagner boss also claimed that Russian units of the 72nd Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade had abandoned positions near Bakhmut, later corroborated by a report from Ukraine's Third Assault Brigade who had claimed to advance in the area.
The internal conflict between Wagner mercenary group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Russian Defense Ministry has escalated dramatically over the past week.
In the early morning of May 5, Prigozhin recorded a video in front of what he claimed to be the bodies of dozens of Wagner mercenaries supposedly killed that day around Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast.
In an expletive-filled rant, the Wagner boss directly blamed Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and General Staff head Valery Gerasimov for the fighters’ deaths, saying that Wagner was being deprived of the ammunition to continue the assault on Bakhmut.
This incident is the most serious case of open internal conflict in Russia since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with serious potential consequences for Russia’s war effort, and seen as an embarrassment for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
On May 7, having threatened to withdraw his units from Bakhmut on May 10, Prigozhin claimed to have received new deliveries of ammunition, specifically thanking General Sergei Surovikin, the former overall commander of Russia’s war, whilst still leveling insults at the rest of the ministry.
Wagner is understood to have lost the majority of its manpower in the brutal months-long attack on Bakhmut, directly reducing the political leverage of Prigozhin, who is no longer able to recruit fighters from Russia's prison system.
According to Russia security expert Mark Galeotti, Putin is reluctant to have to get involved in the conflict, but may have been forced to personally intervene in the situation to avoid further public embarrassment and disaster on the battlefield.