Wagner group Yevgeny Prigozhin has been advocating for Russia to focus on holding the current front lines rather than seeking more gains so that Russian forces can regain their combat effectiveness for later offensive operations.
The Institute for the Study of War said in its latest update that Prigozhin is not arguing for Russia to end the war and negotiate with Ukraine and the West as some Russian and Western sources reported, but is instead condemning the faction within the Kremlin that is hoping to end the war in negotiations.
"Prigozhin is actually arguing that Russia needs to meet the upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive at full strength and try to hold the current front lines without ending the war or entering into peace negotiations," the ISW said.
Prigozhin reportedly argues that a pause after the Ukrainian attack culminates would allow Russia to regain combat power and build nationalist support within the Russian society for renewing the fight even in the event of a defeat.
Prigozhin is also attempting to redefine and undermine some of Putin’s key maximalist goals in Ukraine—namely the “denazification” and “demilitarization” of Ukraine—likely to minimize the informational impact that might result from going over to the defensive and abandoning efforts to gain more ground now.
Russian far-right paramilitary formation Rusich (Sabotage Assault Reconnaissance Group), which facilitates recruitment of Russian ultranationalist and irregular forces, echoed Prigozhin’s rejection of the “denazification” and “demilitarization” goals.
Rusich noted that Russia is fighting Ukraine to avenge Donbas, for living space, and for combat experience—rather than fighting claimed Ukrainian “fascism” and “Nazism.”
"By reframing Putin’s goals, Prigozhin and some factions within the ultranationalist community may be attempting to condition the Russian domestic information space for the prospect of frozen front lines, potentially near the initial lines of February 23, 2022."