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Podoliak: Wagner boss' threats to withdraw from Bakhmut sign of 'internal war' in Russia
Mykhailo Podoliak, an advisor to the head of Ukraine's Presidential Office, said on May 6 that Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin's recent behavior shows he doesn't have direct communication with the Kremlin.
"Prigozhin no longer receives budget funding, does not receive resources through the Ministry of Defense," Podoliak said.
According to him, many "small clans" are forming in Russia now, and all these clans are part of Putin's clan. Prigozhin's recent behavior shows cracks among these clans, Podolyak said.
On May 5, Prigozhin recorded an insult-laden address to Russia's Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, threatening to withdraw his troops on May 10 due to a lack of ammunition.
Prigozhin said on May 6 that Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov's forces would replace Wagner mercenaries in Bakhmut.
The Russian military leadership has struggled to respond to Prigozhin’s public insults and appealed to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin to intervene, leaked U.S. intelligence documents show, the Washington Post reported on May 5.
Prigozhin’s rants suggest that the pleas have fallen on Putin’s “deaf ears,” according to the report.
The threat to withdraw the mercenaries from Bakhmut is a “last-ditch effort to cling to a prominent role in the invasion,” the Washington Post reported.
The Battle of Bakhmut is the longest in Russia’s war, as it has been ongoing since last June. Russian troops have only made incremental gains in the area, experiencing heavy casualties.
Ukrainian forces still control the western blocks of the city.