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149

Prigozhin's Unprecedented Meltdown

149

Prigozhin has just fired off his most vitriolic condemnation of the Russian MOD yet, while displaying 30+ dead Wagner bodies he says are just today’s casualties. For the first time, he calls out Shoigu and Gerasimov by name, even tarring them with some very unflattering epithets, which the translation above I believe fails to transmit properly. Here’s another version:

These guys here are the Wagner PMC, who died today, the blood is still fresh. Get them all on camera (to the cameraman). And now listen to me suka blyat - it's someone's fathers and someone's sons and those ... who don't give us ammunition... will eat their fucking guts in hell, motherfuckers. We have a 70% ammunition shortage. Shoigu, Gerasimov, where the fuck is the ammunition? Look at them, bitches... You bitches are sitting in expensive clubs, your kids are getting off on life and making videos on youtube. You think you're the masters of this life and that you have the right to control THEIR lives. Do you think that if you have shell warehouses, you have the right to do so? There are elementary calculations, if you gave normative number of ammunition they (points to the dead) would be five times less. They came here as volunteers and are dying for you to live in your redwood offices. Keep that in mind.

By the way, uncertain of the Substack video allowances, I chose to truncate the video above so as to remove the graphic portion where he shows 30+ bodies of Wagner fighters. To see the full uncensored video, click here.

While you can feel the raw visceral emotion of his unhinged philippic through your screen, on the other hand there is an undeniably hard to believe theatricality to it, almost a professional wrestling spectacle quality, as if the conflict has turned into a surreal simulation or scripted daytime TV episode.

Now, I understand some would be offended by such a view, after all Prigozhin here displays the valiantly fallen heroes, and I’m sure they are not contrived in any way. At the same time, it’s almost hard to not remain skeptical simply because we’ve never witnessed something like this before. Has anyone witnessed a public screed of this sort during the course of an ongoing war? Of course, one of the reasons is likely the fact, I so often mention, that this is the first truly televised and streamed war: anyone with a cellphone can become a star and command major attention of the perversely titillated masses.

But since this video will undoubtedly do major rounds through the blogosphere, particularly on the Ukrainian side as a ‘sign of Russia’s imminent demise’, allow me to preemptively unpack a few key things, and raise a few questions.

Firstly, one subscriber brought up a very keen point, which is that this outburst—assuming it is real and not some advanced form of scripted theatrics—proves that previous Western estimates of Russian losses were highly exaggerated. The Ukrainian posters will now have a field day with this video, all the while unwittingly posting something which contradicts their own narrative. You see, for Prigozhin to have gotten so steamed, the recent casualties must clearly be inordinately and uncommonly high, which he himself attested to several times recently. The casualties he recently listed—around ~93 per day—are therefore necessarily indicative of an extraordinarily high number, otherwise why would he go into an apoplectic rage?

And here, in this very video, he shows what amounts to around ~35 bodies, if I’m not mistaken. Recall, he previously said Wagner suffers ~20 dead on a good day, 50 on a bad day. In the video above he says this is the day’s losses. While that may look optically bad for us, who are unaccustomed to seeing bodies strewn about, in reality it represents very light daily losses. The AFU by many measures, including that of Prigozhin’s own, suffers 300-500 per day in Bakhmut alone.

ColonelCassad just confirmed this on the eve of the video:

So, what Cassad is saying is that April proved a particularly high loss month for Wagner. This logically follows the fact that April was spent with a lot of difficult assaults on the final, most hardened and intractable AFU positions. Additionally, the AFU itself sent reinforcements in the way of elite brigades to try to stop the final fall of the city, which led to much bloodier battles than usual. Compound this with the purported ammo shortage (if there really is one) and you get a toxic mixture of elements which has led to a period of peaking losses. But, as noted above, they are still well below AFU’s daily losses of 300-500, which have been confirmed on the AFU’s own side, time and time again.

Like I said, if Wagner suffered hundreds of casualties per day (or even higher, as Ukrainian supporters will fallaciously claim), then why would Prigozhin be in absolute fantods over this? Hell, if Wagner was suffering 500-1000 losses per day as AFU claims, then the above should be a very light day, certainly not demanding of a fiery diatribe but more of a celebration.

Next, about the ammo problems. Here’s a post from an insider:

About the ammo problems and what I know. In general, Wagner gets quite a bit of ammo. And it is often enough to prepare good and strong attacks with artillery. What's the point though, since UA has ramped up their artillery fire sharply over the last few days, it makes sense that Wagner needs to fire just as much here or else they'll be pushed back. And here there seem to be problems and Wagner doesn't get more than they've always gotten up until now. And that's the whole point that upsets Prigozhin. And I can understand him there, as you've probably all noticed, there hasn't been much progress in Bakhmut in the last few days. This is also due to the strong artillery fire from UA. They have increased that significantly, and that makes it difficult for Wagner to advance. Therefore, they also have to fire about the same amount of artillery as UA. But they can't because their ammo consumption is currently declining much faster than UA's. The latter have been holding back their ammunition for the upcoming offensive. That's why you have a lot more available at the moment. Now a few days ago they got clearance to increase the shelling and they are doing it all along the front now.

A solution must be found quickly here so that Wagner does not get the same amount of ammunition as always, but more. Otherwise, they will get into trouble very quickly and even if they are strong fighters, UA will eventually overrun them.

You always have casualties every day in a war. That is unfortunately the case. But with a lot of artillery you can reduce them.

What he’s saying is that Prigozhin is peeved not because Wagner is getting less ammo, but rather that UA has gotten more allowance recently, due to the proximity to their offensive date and the subsequent lessening of ammo restrictions. Thus, Wagner is not able to hold the same artillery edge they’ve previously enjoyed, at least according to this one account. And one of the main reasons for the increase in activity on the UA side is not simply the closeness of their offensive date, but the fact that almost nothing of Bakhmut remains. So logic would follow that they would go all out in preserving the last few quarters as a last ditch desperation effort, expending as much munitions as necessary to hold back Wagner’s final thrust and proverbial killing blow.

What’s interesting, by the way, is how recent interviews with several other Wagner commanders and officers do not reveal even an inkling in the way of such ‘grave issues’ as we see from Prigozhin’s perspective. For instance, this interview just released today. One can argue that perhaps these lower commanders feel it’s not their place to lodge such high level complaints as Prigozhin does, but you’d think they would at least reference the situation, even if in a roundabout way. If the ammunition situation is so dire, wouldn’t others at least even hint at it?

One can’t help but muse on how strangely tortuous the Wagner-MOD relationship is. For instance, Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, recently (purportedly) fired by the MOD from his role as Deputy Minister of Defense for Logistics, has now reportedly been hired as a deputy commander for Wagner, and was seen today in this video discussing tactics with the man I previously reported on, Anton Yelizarov, codename ‘Lotus’, an ex-GRU specialist and now senior Wagner commander some believe to be the overall theater commander.

Either way, the Prigozhin video is quite cerebrally startling in its unprecedented irreverence; we’ve simply never witnessed its like, at least that I know of. And many will agree with the sentiment that it veers on treasonous levels of insubordination; but how can a nominal PMC ‘CEO’ be insubordinate to a structure he’s not even officially subordinated to? So the question is, what can be made of it, and what type of consequences could it incur? Certainly, if it’s not a performance, it almost borders on inciting mutiny or disorder, direct accusations against high command. Instinctually, the outburst feels dangerous at a critical time like this. If one didn’t know any better, one might think Prigozhin was attempting to outright incite an uprising or break apart the military.

Like I said, if this was a regular soldier, this would be insubordination of the highest order: a soldier need not know the demands of high command, their plans for ammunition consumption, etc.; his job is only to follow orders. But the relationship between Wagner and the nominal Russian Armed Forces is a tenuous, ambiguous, and ultimately, oracular one. Prigozhin, after all, is in effect a hired contractor protecting his interests. But one still can’t help but feel an edge of revolutionary danger in his tone. After all, even if he’s fully in the right, it would seem like one cannot maintain such a dangerously inflammatory posture against the literal high command of Russia for long. They may decide to pull the plug on him, one way or the other. One man’s capital vanities cannot be allowed to risk the entire war.

But ultimately, I remain undecided for now. I don’t know who to believe, and likely both sides have their own points. One can even perhaps infer that it would not come to this if the MOD simply established proper lines of communication with him. After all, would Prigozhin bristle with such fury if Shoigu and co. invited him to a personal meeting, outlining and explaining their exact strictures on ammo usages? On the other hand, they don’t owe him that—he’s a PMC hired hand, a contractor, as I said—he’s not entitled to know more than his station allows.

So—what to make of it?

All I know is that, on the eve of this ‘grand offensive’, tensions are flaring like never before, and we can only hope that Prigozhin’s prickly performance has not been sprung out of a wellspring of hidden ambition, but of authentic concern for the men under his charge.

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