Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of private Russian army Wagner Group, threatened to abandon his positions next to Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast if he doesn’t get more supplies from the Kremlin.
Prigozhin reportedly told Telegram-based outlet WarGonzo that he sent a letter to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu with his ultimatum, supposedly giving Shoigu until April 28 to decide.
The mercenary chief reiterated his frequently-voiced concern that Wagner might be seeing its final days as a company.
Prigozhin has often complained about ammunition shortages over the past several months.
The oligarch warlord entered into a public feud with Shoigu, accusing regular Russian forces of stealing credit for Wagner’s partially successful assault against Bakhmut. Wagner took a leading role in attacking the city, where brutal fighting has claimed heavy casualties on both sides.
In the past week, the Wagner boss also railed against Potok, a small private military formation created by Gazprom that was supposed to hold Wagner’s flank but reportedly wanted to retreat from action.
Experts from the International Study of War told the Kyiv Independent that the Russian Ministry of Defense has created numerous units that resemble mercenary companies, in order to entice more manpower into the armed forces but also to compete with Wagner.
In addition, Wagner, which was once allowed to recruit intensely from Russia’s prison population, has seen its access to fresh inmates cut off. Some 50,000 Wagner mercenaries, including tens of thousands of convicted felons, were sacrificed in the attack on Bakhmut.
Wagner is one of Russia’s top military companies, with only the PMC Redut approaching its size and influence.
Though private armies are illegal in Russia as such, the Kremlin has made heavy use of paid fighters during the full-scale invasion, especially as an alternative to mobilizing more civilians.
Companies such as Wagner are not bound by the same rules as the regular military and utilize threat of torture or execution to motivate troops. Prigozhin said during his interview that deserters need to be shot.