Russian mercenary chief complains it takes ‘weeks to capture a house’ in Ukraine

Russia Ukraine Wagner
Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin attends the funeral of Dmitry Menshikov, a fighter of the Wagner group who died during a special operation in Ukraine, at the Beloostrovskoye cemetery outside St. Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022. (AP Photo) AP

Russian mercenary chief complains it takes ‘weeks to capture a house’ in Ukraine

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Russia’s Wagner Group can take “weeks to capture a house” in Bakhmut, according to a battlefield update that puts a spotlight on Russia‘s military equipment shortage throughout the war in Ukraine.

“The lads are fighting over every house, sometimes for more than a day,” Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin told state media, per the Moscow Times. “Sometimes it takes them weeks to capture a house. They take one house, they take another.”

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Prigozhin has emerged in recent months as a high-profile figure within Russia’s security apparatus, having assembled a force perceived as better-equipped and more effective than Russian regulars. Yet the turn of the new year saw him forced to acknowledge the difficulty in taking Bakhmut while offering Russian state media the chance to hear from apparent Wagner Group fighters, who attributed their difficulty to a lack of equipment.

“We’re lacking ammunition and armored vehicles,” one masked fighter said, per the War Translated Project, while another said that such equipment would allow them to move through the battle space “quicker and with more confidence.”

The new interview contrasts with Prigozhin’s attempt to taunt Kyiv, on the occasion of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s surprise visit to Bakhmut last month, by offering “to meet up with” the Ukrainian leader.

“The blame game has started, so Prigozhin tries to show not only in front of Putin and the public that he’s able to deliver,” a senior European official based in Kyiv told the Washington Examiner. “There’s also a competition now between Prigozhin’s private company and the military — plus FSB, which is competing and trying to supervise all the others.”

Zelensky rang in the New Year by reveling in the improvements to Ukrainian air defense systems, which are tasked with deflecting Russia’s continuous bombardments of the Ukrainian energy infrastructure.

“Our sense of unity, authenticity, life itself — all this contrasts dramatically with the fear that prevails in Russia,” Zelensky said. “They are afraid. You can feel it. And they are right to be afraid. Because they are losing. Drones, missiles, anything else will not help them. Because we are together. And they are together only with fear.”

The appearance by Prigozhin and his embattled forces coincided with multiple initiatives in Moscow focused on the widely perceived equipment shortages. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to “submit a report on the provision of military units and detachments of the Russian Armed Forces participating in the special military operation … and on measures being taken to improve the Russian Defense Ministry’s work in this area.” In parallel, a senior Russian defense industrial official said factories operated through the New Year holidays to produce new equipment.

“Rostec’s factories involved in fulfilling state contracts are working almost around the clock, and their staff are showing self-sacrifice and understanding in relation to the increased workload,” Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov told Tass on Monday.

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The scarcity of high-quality equipment also could provide another motive for Prigozhin to publicize his organization’s needs. “Competition for resources,” the senior European official said. “Prigozhin needs money, and I think he’s not cheap. It’s a wartime military economy, and [there are] lots of middlemen who all want to take their part.”

Prigozhin, for his part, acknowledged that he feels pressed to answer for the Wagner Group’s slow progress. “Everyone has a question when are you taking Artyomovsk [Bakhmut],” he said.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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