Infighting between Russia’s military leadership fuels battlefield setbacks, as leaders continue to criticize President’s way Vladimir PoutineThe war against Ukraine is being managed, experts say.
In recent weeks, Putin’s longtime allies, including the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Yevgeny Prigozhinfounder of the Russian mercenary, the Wagner Groupnicknamed “the leader of Putin”, publicly criticized the Russian Ministry of Defense and its head, Sergei Shoigu.
They appear to be rallying behind each other in rare displays of dissent, suggesting divisions and a potential power struggle could emerge within the Kremlin.
Prigozhin Mercenaries Wagner Group would support Russian troops in their efforts to capture Bakhmut, a strategic town in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.
Jaroslava Barbieri, PhD student at the University of Birmingham, said Newsweek that Prigozhin probably has “ulterior motives” in sending troops to the area.
“He sees this as an opportunity to further undermine Shoigu and show the Kremlin the combat value of the Wagner Group as regular Russian military units continue to lose ground in other combat areas,” Barbieri said.
She added that Shoigu recently fired a deputy defense minister who allegedly facilitated lucrative contracts for the Wagner Group. “So it’s partly a personal vendetta too,” she said.
Prigozhin and Kadyrov vilified Shoigu for a series of disastrous defeats that left Russian forces in retreat, Barbieri added, referring to Ukraine’s counter-offensives that saw troops retake swathes of territory in the south and the northeast.
The continued attacks in Bakhmut also come amid Ukraine’s anticipated gains in the Kherson region.
According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a US defense and foreign affairs think tank, Prigozhin is sponsoring the formation of a battalion of volunteers recruited by Russian war criminal Igor Girkin, a former military officer. Federal Security Service (FSB).
The ISW assessed this week that the military group could “pose a threat to Putin’s regime”.
“Prigozhin continues to gain strength and is building a military structure parallel to the Russian Armed Forces, which could pose a threat to Putin’s regime, at least in the information space,” analysts wrote. ISW.
Prigozhin is building a partisan “constitution” and its own fighting force that is not under the direct control of the Russian military or the Defense Ministry, the think tank said.
The assessment notes that Prigozhin occupies a particularly advantageous position within the Russian state structure and information space that allows him to expand his constituency in the country more easily than the higher military command.
Prigozhin can freely promote himself and his forces while criticizing Kremlin officials or the Russian armed forces without fear of rebuff, experts said.
At the same time, Kadyrov appears to side with the Russian business mogul in his criticism of the Defense Ministry.
In a message on his Telegram channel on Thursday, Kadyrov once again launched an attack on Russia’s military leadership – this time he sharply criticized the commander of the Central Military District, Colonel-General Alexander Lapin.
Kadyrov mentioned Prigozhin in the message, calling him “dear brother” and “a born warrior”. He posted that “one must pay close attention to the evaluation of such people, to listen, to draw conclusions.
“They know for sure what is right and wrong in war,” Kadyrov wrote. “As [Prigozhin] correctly noted, tactical and personnel changes are necessary. Now, not tomorrow.”
Newsweek contacted the Russian Foreign and Defense Ministries for comment.