Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin on Friday accused the Russian army of «destroying» its fighters, without fully explaining his accusation, vowing to stop the «evil» military leadership.
“Those who destroyed our guys, who destroyed the lives of many tens of thousands of Russian soldiers, will be punished. I ask that no one offer resistance,» Prigozhin said in a series of audio messages on his official Telegram channel.
While it is not the first time Prigozhin has lashed out at the Russian military, the Defense Ministry quickly issued a statement on Friday saying the allegations «do not correspond to reality and are an informational provocation.»
Earlier in the day, Prigozhin appeared to cross a new line in his increasingly acrimonious feud with Moscow, saying the Kremlin’s justification for invading Ukraine was based on lies concocted by top army commanders.
President Vladimir Putin had “been informed of all the events around Prigozhin. The necessary measures are being taken,» said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Prigozhin said that the details of what happened were just emerging, but added: «The Defense Minister specially came to Rostov to carry out an operation to destroy the Wagner PMC (private military company).»
An unverified video posted on the «Razgruzka Wagner» (Wagner’s Combat Vest) Telegram channel showed a scene in a forest where small fires were burning and trees appeared to have been forcibly broken down.
It bore the caption: “Missile attack launched against PMC Wagner camps. Many victims. According to eyewitnesses, the attack was launched from behind, that is, it was launched by the army of the Russian Defense Ministry.»
Prigozhin vowed to avenge the incident: «We are 25,000 and we are going to find out why the chaos is taking place in the country.»
But he also added: «This is not a military coup.»
Prigozhin, whose frequent tirades on social media belie his limited role in the war as head of the private military company Wagner, has for months openly accused Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russia’s top general Valery Gerasimov of incompetence.
On Friday, he dismissed for the first time Russia’s main justifications for invading Ukraine on February 24 last year in what he calls a «special military operation.»
«War was needed… so that [Defense Minister Sergei] Shoigu could become a marshal… so he could get a second ‘Hero’ [of Russia] medal,» Prigozhin said in another audio message. «The war was not necessary to demilitarize or denazify Ukraine.»