It continues to amaze me that Wagner group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin hasn’t fallen out of a high window somewhere in Russia. In a country which last year made it illegal to criticize the war effort, Prigozhin continues to brand the defense secretary a failure and even to openly question whether the entire effort in Ukraine has backfired.
Instead of demilitarization, he said, the invasion turned “Ukraine’s army into one of the most powerful in the world” and Ukrainians into “a nation known to the entire world.”
“If they, figuratively speaking, had 500 tanks at the beginning of the special operation, now they have 5,000,” he said. “If they had 20,000 fighters who knew how to fight, now they have 400,000. How did we ‘demilitarize’ it? Now it turns out that we militarized it — hell knows how.”
He framed this as an existential crisis for Russia. Fail and the entire country could cease to be. His solution for this problem was to double down, i.e. a call for martial law, a fresh mobilization of unwilling troops and most of Russia living like North Korea.
“We are in a situation where we can simply lose Russia,” Prigozhin said, using an expletive to hammer his point. “We must introduce martial law. We unfortunately … must announce new waves of mobilization; we must put everyone who is capable to work on increasing the production of ammunition,” he said. “Russia needs to live like North Korea for a few years, so to say, close the borders … and work hard.”
Prigozhin is careful to always frame himself as a servant of Putin, but this seems like the kind of language you wouldn’t want to be thrown about loosely if you’re Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin even warned that a failure to take extreme measures to win the war would result in a new Russian revolution.
“The children of the elite shut their traps at best, and some allow themselves a public, fat, carefree life,” Prigozhin said in the interview, which was released Wednesday on video. “This division might end as in 1917, with a revolution — when first the soldiers rise up, and then their loved ones follow.”
He admitted that about 20,000 Wagner fighters had died in the effort to take Bakhmut, though US authorities have suggested the real number is much higher than that. He’s clearly riding high thanks to Bakhmut, but there are signs he’s testing the limits. Yesterday, the man who interviewed him, Konstantin Dolgov, was fired.
Pro-Kremlin media technologist Konstantin Dolgov said he was fired from the Cart ONLINE propaganda project after an interview with Wagner PMC owner Yevgeny Prigozhin. He wrote about this in his telegram channel…
Dolgov claims that the next morning he was informed of the dismissal. “And they said in plain text: I was fired because of the interview with Prigozhin,” he said.
“Ordinary producers of the project admitted to me that the decision to dismiss was made after calls “from above,” he continued.
The NY Times spoke to an unnamed businessman who said Prigozhin was playing a dangerous game.
“He is playing a very dangerous game,” one wealthy Moscow-based businessman said of Mr. Prigozhin in an interview with The New York Times in late March, asking for anonymity to discuss a prominent Kremlin-connected individual. “If he doesn’t stop, he will wind up like Aleksei Navalny.” Mr. Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition politician, is now in poor health in a penal colony.
It just feels like his statements could backfire on him at any time. He should try to stay on the ground floor for the next few months. Here he is criticizing the entire approach to the war and even implicitly criticizing Putin for not being tougher on the generals who failed him.
Join the conversation as a VIP Member