Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia’s Wagner Group mercenary force, said Thursday that much-needed ammunition had been sent to his troops, after a public spat in which he accused military leaders of treason.
Prigozhin had posted a grisly image on Wednesday of dozens of men he said had been killed because commanders including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov had withheld ammunition to spite him. Neither of them commented, but the ministry denied the accusation.
In an audio clip on Thursday, Prigozhin said he felt the pressure he and others had put on the Defense Ministry had paid off, and that he had been told munitions were on the way.
“So far, everything is on paper but, according to what we were told, the main documents have already been signed,” Prigozhin said.
“I would like to thank everyone who helped us do this. You saved hundreds, maybe thousands of lives of men defending their homeland, you gave them the chance to move on with their lives.”
The ministry, in a statement late on Tuesday, said allegations that “storm troopers” fighting in Ukraine were deprived of shells were “completely false” and complained, without mentioning Prigozhin by name, about attempts to create divisions that functioned “solely for the benefit of the enemy.”
Prigozhin, a wealthy restaurant magnate and ex-convict, has emerged from the shadows into a high-profile public role since the war began, and seems to enjoy a great deal of autonomy on the ground.
Wagner has spearheaded Russia’s months-long battle for the small town of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, a fact he has loudly announced, helping Moscow to small but steady gains.
But there have been signs in recent weeks that the Kremlin and the Defense Ministry are trying to rein in their growing influence.
Sergei Markov, a former Kremlin adviser, said on Telegram that he believed Putin’s Security Council had intervened to resolve the ammunition issue.
President Vladimir Putin said in his annual state of the nation address on Tuesday that he wanted the infighting to end.
“We must get rid of, I want to emphasize this, any interdepartmental contradictions, formalities, grudges, misunderstandings and other nonsense,” he said.