Not only “Putin’s bloodhound” Ramzan Kadyrov, but also Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigoshin is now criticizing the Russian military leadership. The entrepreneur complains that he has to pay for his troops’ equipment himself. But an expert doubts that.

Criticism of the Russian military leadership continues. Sometimes it is the Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov who gets angry about the Russian actions on the battlefield. Yevgeny Prigozhin speaks up. So also currently.

The Russian entrepreneur is known, among other things, as “Putin’s cook”. He recently admitted to founding the notorious Wagner mercenary force – in May 2014, to send fighters to Ukraine’s Donbass. The Wagner group is also active in the Ukraine war.

“Putin’s cook” claims that he has to sponsor all of his troops’ equipment. In addition, only Wagner troops would operate in the industrial city of Bakhmut – and no soldiers from the Donetsk region. This emerges from a report by the US think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

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Russia expert Gerhard Mangott considers only one of the two statements to be correct. “Regarding Bakhmut, Prigozhin’s statement is correct. The progress made in conquering this city is entirely thanks to the Wagner mercenaries,” he said in an interview with FOCUS online.

Mangott works as a professor of political science with a focus on international relations at the University of Innsbruck. His main focus is on Russia’s regime doctrine, arms control and great power relations.

He doesn’t believe that Prigozhin, “who owes his wealth to Putin,” pays for the equipment of his mercenaries himself. “The cooperation between Wagner and the Russian Ministry of Defense was and is very close. The money for the financing probably comes mainly from public funds from the defense budget,” says the professor.

In their article, however, the ISW analysts not only deal with Prigozhin himself. They also take a look at Wagner’s overall positioning.

“Evgeny Prigozhin and Wagner-affiliated social media channels are increasingly commenting on the ineffectiveness of traditional Russian military institutions and societal issues,” they write. If you believe the experts, the criticism could have serious consequences.

Because Prigozhin, who was said to have close contacts with Vladimir Putin in the past, does not attack the Kremlin boss directly. With his statements, however, he may reach Russian nationalists. So people who strongly criticize the Russian military for setbacks at the front. People who want Ukraine to be completely annihilated.

Prigozhin’s growing notoriety could undermine Putin’s authority in these circles, the ISW report reads. After all, the analysts wrote in early October: “Putin is failing to reconcile the claims of the Russian nationalists with his declared war goals.”

A look at the social networks shows what claims some of them have. There is, for example, the Russian ultra-nationalist Igor Girkin, who calls himself Igor Strelkov. A few days ago he wrote on Telegram that 70 percent of Russian troops are “complete, untrained idiots”.

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And Sascha Kots, who works for the ultra-patriotic newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, rages on his private Telegram channel about professional soldiers who refuse to hold their positions.

British experts have also recently noted that the Russian military leadership is increasingly being criticized in its own country. So far, the political leadership has been exempt from this.

However, the British Ministry of Defense’s daily intelligence update on the Ukraine war on Saturday spoke of a trend towards publicly expressed opposition to the Russian establishment, “which will probably be difficult to reverse”.

At the head of a pro-war bloc, exactly the two men who are now constantly taunting the Russian military leadership are perceived: Chechnya’s President Kadyrov and Wagner boss Prigozhin. They call for greater government involvement and greater willingness to escalate the conflict.

Prigozhin, who, like Putin, comes from St. Petersburg, was known for his brutality like Kadyrov. After all, his soldiers are also deployed in Syria, Libya and Mali, among other places, where they systematically torture and execute people.

He himself was in prison for years, among other things, for a robbery. French filmmakers Ksenia Bolchakova and Alexandra Jousset recently made a documentary called Wagner, Putin’s Shadow Army. They found clear words for Prigozhin.

“The former criminal who became one of the most powerful men in Russia is the pure product of an underworld of security militias, spies, secret service agents, mafia bosses and ex-convicts,” they told the German Press Agency.

In the Ukraine war, Prigozhin made a name for himself for recruiting Russian prisoners from prisons for the battlefield. Ultranationalist Strelkow supported the move, but at the same time warned on Telegram that criminals would be disobedient.

In the end, Putin lets men like Prigozhin and Kadyrov do their thing – as war enthusiasts who are desperate to achieve victory in Ukraine, no matter what the cost. Putin was even very accommodating to one of the two recently.

He promoted Kadyrov, also known as “Putin’s bloodhound,” to colonel-general in early October. Experts rated this step primarily as a “symbolic act”. Putin may also want to keep the nationalists in Russia in line.

FOCUS online expert Gerhard Mangott says: “Evgeny Prigozhin and Ramzan Kadyrov are among the public voices of the ‘war party’ in the Russian leadership. Both also cater to the Russian nationalist right.”

Still, he doesn’t think they’ll take a leadership role in Russia. “The FSB, the domestic intelligence service, will certainly take care of that.”