Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries have begun asking Moscow to supply them with ammunition to fight in Ukraine, footage shared to social media this week shows.
In a video in which four people claim to be part of a Wagner artillery unit, a man ticks off a row of missing ammunition and directly asks the Russian Defense Ministry for assistance.
“Every day we perform difficult combat tasks and cover assault groups. At the moment we are completely cut off from the supply of ammunition”, state the supposed Wagner fighters in a Video shared on Twitter. “We appeal to our colleagues and friends at the Department of Defense. We are confident that these ammunition are in stockpiles somewhere and we urgently need them… We will do the work for you – help us with ammunition.”
Another video shared on Telegram and Vkontakte this week appears to show Wagner paramedics requesting more ammo and standing in front of dead Wagner fighters lined up on the ground.
“Every day we lose hundreds of our comrades. If the military officials had provided us with weapons, ammunition and everything we needed in time, there would have been half as many,” says one man. “Stop fooling around, let’s fight, let’s defend our country, our homeland. There are hundreds of our boys here.”
The calls for help are the latest indication of a growing rift between the Wagner Group and the Russian military as Moscow struggles to organize the fight for a renewed offensive in Ukraine later this year.
Some of the most blatant examples of military disagreements between Wagner and Russia have come from the embattled city of Bakhmut in recent days. Russia has been trying unsuccessfully to capture Bakhmut for months, but when mercenaries from the Wagner Group announce they’ve made increasing profits nearby, Russia’s defense ministry appears to have changed tack.
Earlier this week, Wagner announced that he had captured Krasna Hora near Bakhmut. Prigozhin attacked Russia’s more conventional military forces, claiming that it was the Wagner group and the Wagner group alone that would eventually seize Bakhmut as well.
The Russian Ministry of Defense did not mention Krasna Hora in its updates on the war. However, according to AFP and the Institute for the Study of War, Ukrainian authorities have cited the presence of both the Wagner Group and the regular Russian army there in recent days.
The tension goes all the way up. Evgeniy Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group, said earlier this week that the Wagner Group would make faster advances on the battlefield if “monstrous military bureaucracy” didn’t get in the way.
“Without our monstrous military bureaucracy, Bakhmut would have been taken before the New Year,” Prigozhin said, according to AFP. “Progress is not going as fast as we would like.”
Prigozhin has begun publicly criticizing Putin’s flagging war effort in recent months. While Western officials warn that Putin is preparing for a new Russian offensive, the president appears to have changed tack this year. He promoted General Valery Gerasimov to command Russian troops in Ukraine and began to rely more heavily on conventional forces. At the same time, Prigozhin appears to be the target of a campaign to reduce its influence on the fighting in Ukraine: reports circulated that Russia had ordered the state media not to advertise Prigozhin (a move the Kremlin denies); and Prigozhin has announced without explanation that he will no longer recruit convicts for Wagner.
Meanwhile, Prigozhin has admitted that the Wagner Group’s future in Ukraine has become precarious.
“The number of Wagner units will decrease, and we will also not be able to carry out the scope of tasks that we would like,” Prigozhin said on Wednesday. “You all heard that the recruitment of prisoners into our ranks has stopped.”
The current US estimate is that Russian fighters from Prigozhin’s Wagner Group have suffered more than 30,000 casualties, with 9,000 killed in action, John Kirby of the White House National Security Council told reporters on Friday. 90 percent of those killed since December have been convicts.