According to reports, Vladimir Putin turned against the leader of the dreaded Russian Wagner mercenary organization after the commander of his private army ‘failed to take the signal’ and continued boasting that his soldiers were outperforming Russia’s.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner, is no longer popular with Putin as a result of his repeated boasts about the superiority and effectiveness of his private paramilitary fighters over Russia’s conventional troops, according to analysts.
In an effort to undercut Putin, Prigozhin boasted earlier this month that his soldiers had seized control of the battle-ravaged town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine by themselves.
According to specialists from the Institute for the Study of War, Prigozhin’s ascent and tactless self-assertion made Putin feel threatened. The Russian President specifically denied crediting Prigozhin or his Wagner troops for the conquest of Soledar, the ISW researchers said, which made this clear.
After the Wagner chief tweeted a photo of himself with Wagner mercenaries at the entrance to a salt mine in Soledar, Putin, who was anxious about Prigozhin’s authority, started to reestablish himself as an active wartime leader and met with commanders.
According to the ISW analysts, “Prigozhin did not accept the message, if it was a one, but instead redoubled his attempts to establish himself by touting the superiority and victories of his own soldiers.”
Instead, the head of Wagner attempted to improve his reputation by saying he had come to the front lines close to Bakhmut to confer with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about the control of territory there.
He had “become domineering and ostentatiously swaggering in his speech and self-presentation until things started to go south for him,” according to the ISW.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the warlord of Chechnya, and Prigozhin have been vying for popularity and power ever since Putin’s conflict started, raising the possibility that they may one day seek to unseat Putin.
Prigozhin has made public criticisms of the Russian army and its generals.
According to the analysts, “Prigozhin probably believed that his actions in Ukraine would continue to provide him military and political dominance in Russia.”
By choosing General Valery Gerasimov as Russia’s new military commander in Ukraine, Putin has started to ignore Prigozhin’s Wagner group and has instead reverted to using his conventional troops.
The ISW said that “Prigozhin’s recent seeming decline in favor and influence probably reflects the underlying restrictions on his actual authority.”
It is less likely, according to the analysts, that Russia’s president would “give in to the wilder demands of the far-right, pro-war camp” in Moscow if Russia’s conventional military resumes its prioritization.
According to UK and US intelligence, Prigozhin has around 50,000 fighters in Ukraine, 40,000 of them are prisoners and 10,000 are contractors.
The ISW researchers deemed it beneficial that Prigozhin, who oversaw the use of sledgehammers to execute deserters, had been marginalized.
However, the analysts described the resurgence of the Russian military as “concerning,” since it might imply that Russia is once again on track to reassemble its troops.
Putin is now concentrating his efforts on consolidating his military and increasing his control over them, but this is not working as planned, according to today’s statement from the British Ministry of Defence.
After implementing ‘farcical’ new regulations requiring soldiers to shave, Putin’s recently chosen military commander in Ukraine has seen his support crumble only 12 days into the job, according to the MoD.
Russian Army Chief of General Staff Gerasimov has come under fire from inside his own ranks for being ‘out of touch’ and prioritizing soldiers’ outward looks above combat training.
Gerasimov, who took over command of the forces engaged in combat in Ukraine only 12 days before on January 11, came under fire for his emphasis on soldiers’ clean-shaven appearance in the face of significant Russian deaths.
Britain’s defense ministry said today that since Gerasimov assumed command, Russian officers have been making an effort to crack down on non-standard attire, travel in private cars, cellphone usage, and hairstyles.
The British MoD claimed in an intelligence briefing today that the measures had received “skeptical reaction,” with some of the “most ridicule” reserved for Gerasimov’s efforts to raise the bar for soldiers’ shaving.
According to representatives of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the prioritization is a “farce” that would “hamper the task of eradicating the enemy.”
Gerasimov’s leadership was criticized by Prigozhin, who said that “war is the time of the active and daring, not of the clean-shaven.”
Gerasimov’s decision to prioritize minor rules above combat training in the face of high Russian fatalities and operational stalemate on the battlefield, according to Britain’s MoD, would “certainly confirm the suspicions of his many skeptics in Russia.”
According to the MoD, “he is increasingly perceived as out of touch and focused on appearance over content,” along with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Gerasimov, like Shoigu, has come under fire from hard-line military bloggers in Russia for several military failures and Moscow’s inability to gain victory in a war that was supposed to be over in a short period of time.
Only last October, after a series of counter-offensives by Ukrainian troops that changed the course of the battle, Russia appointed Sergey Surovikin, known as “General Armageddon” for his notorious brutality, as the commander-in-chief of operations in Ukraine.
However, due to the reorganization, Surovikin will now be Gerasimov’s assistant.
More than ten months into a war that has seen tens of thousands of troops on both sides as well as Ukrainian citizens dead, it was claimed that the restructuring was intended to boost the efficacy of military operations in Ukraine.
“The development in the size of duties is associated with the increase in the degree of leadership of the special military operation… the need to arrange better communication between various military departments and raise the standard of… Russian defense officials said earlier this month that they were concerned about the efficiency and administration of their military.
However, Gerasimov has already lost support 12 days into his new position because he prioritized trivial rules above combat training, such as whether or not soldiers must be clean-shaven.
As the country’s senior military official in charge of strategic military planning and the man largely regarded as the mastermind of the Russian assault in Ukraine, Gerasimov has also been held responsible for Moscow’s military defeats.
Gerasimov has been charged with ineptitude by Wagner chief Prigozhin and held accountable for a number of military failures in Russia.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Chechnya, who sent soldiers from his nation to fight in Ukraine and often pushed the Kremlin to escalate the war, shared this criticism.
When Prigozhin and Kadyrov’s rapid Ukrainian counteroffensive forced Russian soldiers to retreat from Kharkiv in northern Ukraine in September, their criticism of Gerasimov reached a new high.
Kadyrov accused Gerasimov in particular of protecting his henchman Col. Gen. Alexander Lapin, who oversaw the soldiers who withdrew from the Kharkiv area.
Lapin was elevated to the position of chief of staff of the ground troops earlier this month despite these assaults. His rise and Gerasimov’s new position seem to indicate that, despite their growing public engagement, Prigozhin and Kadyrov have limited control over Kremlin decision-making.
It comes after Gerasimov’s appointment failed to please Russian war cheerleaders.
One well-known military blogger who goes by the username Rybar and writes on the Telegram messaging platform said, “The total does not alter, only by shifting the positions of its elements.”
He claimed that Surovikin, a veteran of Russian operations in Chechnya and Syria, was being blamed for a string of recent military missteps by Russia, including the attack by the Ukrainians on a Russian barracks in Makiivka that resulted in the deaths of at least 89 Russian soldiers, including conscripts, on New Year’s Day.
Poland’s prime minister said today that his country will seek Berlin for permission to deploy Leopard tanks to Ukraine, but that it still intended to do so regardless of Berlin’s decision.
The foreign minister of Germany had said on Sunday that Berlin would not obstruct Poland if it so desired.
As the first anniversary of the Russian invasion approaches, the topic of providing the German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine has taken center stage in recent debates among Western partners over how much and what kind of material assistance they should provide to Ukraine.
Berlin has received significant help, but it has come under fire for taking its time in deploying military equipment.
Steffen Hebestreit, a spokesman for the German government, warned on Monday that Germany should avoid making a “reckless” move that would later be regretted.
He said, “These are difficult problems of life and death.” We must consider the implications for the defense of our own nation.
The news comes as it is thought that Russia and Ukraine are preparing spring offensives to break the impasse in what has turned into an attrition war in eastern and southern Ukraine.
The current battleground is the eastern town of Bakhmut, where Ukrainian troops and Russian Wagner mercenaries have been engaged in combat.
On Sunday, Russia said that its troops were strengthening their positions in the Zaporizhzhia area of southern Ukraine.
Officials in Ukraine have been asking with their Western partners for months to provide them Leopard tanks, but Germany has refused to transfer any or let other NATO nations to re-export any. Defense specialists believe that leopards, which are owned by several NATO nations, are the most appropriate for Ukraine.
Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister of Poland, indicated that while Warsaw will approach Germany for permission to re-export tanks to Ukraine, it was just a minor concern.
Even if we did not get this clearance, He assured reporters that we would still send our tanks and others to Ukraine. The current need for us is to put together at least a modest coalition of nations.
Last week, Western allies promised Ukraine billions of dollars’ worth of arms, but they were unable to convince Germany to remove its veto on sending the tanks.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, however, said on Sunday that her government would not obstruct Poland if it attempted to deploy its Leopards, signaling an apparent reversal in Germany’s stance.
Baerbock’s words seemed to go beyond what Chancellor Olaf Scholz had said earlier that day at a conference in Paris, who had said that all decisions regarding the delivery of weapons would be coordinated with partners, including the United States.
In front of a fresh Russian onslaught that is anticipated in the coming months, Ukraine claims that the highly armored battle tanks will increase the mobility and protection of its ground forces.
A close Putin friend said on Sunday that transfers of offensive weapons to Kiev that pose a danger to Russian territory would trigger a worldwide disaster and render the case against the use of WMDs moot.
The speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, issued a warning that the world was heading toward a “awful war” as a result of NATO and the United States’ backing for Ukraine.