‘Mercenary’ rep barred from Russian army HQ in Ukraine

Published March 7, 2023
Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force, speaks in Paraskoviivka, Ukraine in this still image. — Reuters
Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force, speaks in Paraskoviivka, Ukraine in this still image. — Reuters

KYIV: Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin said his representative had been denied access to the headquarters of Russia’s military command in Ukraine on Mon­day, in a further deepening of his rift with the defence establishment.

Prigozhin said the incident came the day after he urgently requested ammunition supplies from the commander of what Russia calls its “Special Military Operation” (SMO).

“On March 5, I wrote a letter to the commander of the SMO grouping about the urgent need to allocate ammunition. Next day, my representative at the headquarters had his pass cancelled and was denied access,” Prigozhin said via his press service on Telegram.

Since mid-January, Russia’s campaign in Ukraine has been commanded personally by the chief of the general staff, Army General Valery Gerasimov.

Prigozhin’s private militia, Wagner, has led much of the heaviest fighting for the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, but he has complained bitterly for weeks that the military leadership is belittling its contribution.

Kyiv vows to fortify defences in frontline Bakhmut; Shoigu visits Mariupol

In a video published at the weekend, he repeated earlier complaints that his men were being deprived of ammunition.

“If Wagner retreats from Bakhmut now, the whole front will collapse,” Prigozhin said in the video, apparently filmed in a bunker. “The situation will not be sweet for all military formations protecting Russian interests.”

In Monday’s statement, he said: “We are continuing to smash the Armed Forces of Ukraine near Bakhmut.”

‘Frontline Bakhmut’

On Monday, Ukraine pledged to bolster its defences in frontline Bakhmut, after reports that Kyiv was withdrawing from the city that’s become a symbolic prize in the war.

Ukraine has reported an increasingly difficult situation around Bakhmut in recent days and some analysts said its forces may have initiated a strategic retreat.

But President Volodymyr Zelensky met with top commanders on Monday and his office said they were in favour of “continuing the defensive operation and further strengthening our positions in Bakhmut.” Neither side has said how many troops they have lost in the battle, with observers saying both Moscow and Kyiv are trying to exhaust each other.

Russia has appeared determined to take Bakhmut at all costs, despite analysts saying the city has little strategic value.

Ukraine faced new air attacks, with the air force saying that it had shot down 13 explosive drones launched from southern Russia overnight.

The air force said on Telegram that Russian forces had launched 15 Iran-made Shahed drones, 13 of which Ukrainian forces shot down.

Russian defence minister in Mariupol

Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Mariupol, his ministry announced Monday, the port city that Moscow captured after a long siege last Spring.

Shoigu is one of the highest-ranking Russian officials to visit east Ukraine. He toured the destroyed city to oversee reconstruction efforts.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2023

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