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UK Defense Ministry: Prigozhin 'raises stakes' with Russia's Defense Ministry over new contract policy

by Martin Fornusek June 20, 2023 10:49 AM 2 min read
A screenshot from a video released by the press service of Yevgeny Prigozhin on May 13, 2023, shows the Wagner Group boss describing the tactical situation around Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast. (Telegram)
This audio is created with AI assistance

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The Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said he is expecting a response from Russia's Defense Ministry to the submitted contract between the mercenary group and the state, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported on June 20.

The Russian Defense Ministry ordered all "volunteer" formations, which technically includes paramilitary formations and mercenaries, to sign formal contracts with the state by July 1.

This is part of the efforts to integrate mercenary troops like the Wagner into regular forces and tighten the government's control over them.

Prigozhin criticized the ministry's efforts but said he attempted to submit a contract of "his own drafting" on June 17, without revealing its content.

The U.K. Defense Ministry notes that by delivering his draft, Prigozhin again raises the stakes and likely aims to undermine the authority of the military officials.

"Prigozhin's tone towards (the Defense Ministry) has become unambiguously confrontational. The Defense Ministry almost certainly sees this as deeply unfortunate at a time when it is grappling with Ukraine's counteroffensive," the report said.

There is a long-standing feud between Russia's Defense Ministry and the Wagner founder. Prigozhin repeatedly criticized the military authorities and claimed that Wagner mercenaries are the only Russian units achieving success on the battlefield.

During the drawn-out battle of Bakhmut, the oligarch complained that his mercenaries are not receiving enough ammunition and threatened to pull Wagner from the fight. After the battle, Prigozhin claimed that Russian troops placed mines on Wagner's exit routes from the city.

Ukraine's military even reported a case of a shootout between Prigozhin's contractors and the regular forces.

This Week in Ukraine Ep. 7 – Why Russia relies on private militaries, like Wagner, for its war effort
“This Week in Ukraine” is a video podcast hosted by Kyiv Independent’s reporter Anastasiia Lapatina. Every week, Anastasiia sits down with her newsroom colleagues to discuss Ukraine’s most pressing issues. Episode #7 is dedicated to Russian private military companies, how they operate, and the role…
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