The Wagner Group has escalated its feud with the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin by sharing a video of troops it says were killed in Ukraine due to a lack of support from the military establishment.
The mercenary organization on Friday released a graphic video showing a large number of bodies laid out in a room after a Wagner Group fighter blames “military functionaries” led by the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) for failing to give his fallen comrades needed weapons.
A caption alongside the video, which was shared to a Wagner-affiliated Telegram account, claims that “hundreds” of Wagner fighters are dying in Ukraine every day due to the Russian military’s failure to send “weapons, ammunition and everything necessary on time.”
Russian officials are urged to allow the mercenaries to “defend” Russia by providing them with weapons needed to continue the attack on Ukraine, or instead send their own children and “sons-in-law who take TikToks” to the war.
Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman who is sometimes called “Putin’s chef” due to Kremlin catering contracts, has recently seen his influence wane after his mercenary force suffered repeated battlefield failures.
Despite Prigozhin’s previously cozy relationship with Putin and the Wagner Group’s leading role in the extended battle to capture Bakhmut, Moscow has sidelined the mercenaries in recent weeks.
Conventional Russian troops have been slowly replacing Wagner fighters, while efforts to recruit more mercenaries from the ranks of Russian prisons have been called off. Recruitment efforts from other sources may be continuing.
Meanwhile, Wagner personnel who remain on the battlefield continue to protest that they do not have the weapons and equipment needed to fight Ukrainian forces.
Earlier on Friday, a video was shared that purportedly shows Wagner fighters complaining that they are “completely cut off from the ammunition supply” and begging the Russian military to give them needed supplies.
In the video, one of the purported fighters is shown appealing to “colleagues and friends from the Ministry of Defense” to send them “ammunition somewhere in the stockpiles.”
A report published Friday by U.S. think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) argued that the gruesome video of dead mercenaries was the latest example of Prigozhin’s “informational counteroffensive against the conventional Russian military establishment.”
“The escalation of Wagner’s direct accusations against the Russian MoD represents a new informational counteroffensive by Prigozhin that seeks to continue to undermine the Russian MoD and obscure Wagner’s attrition-based operational model by blaming the Russian MoD for its failures,” ISW said.
The think tank went on to say that Prigozhin’s notoriety in Russia is due to his criticism of the “Russian establishment” and “promoting the Wagner Group as an elite force that could secure tactical gains that the regular Russian military could not,” a strategy that he will “likely try to emulate” to achieve “renewed prominence.”
Newsweek has reached out to the Russian MoD for comment.