Dear Commons Community,
Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said yesterday that the official Kremlin-backed version of why Moscow invaded Ukraine was based on lies concocted by the army’s top brass.
Prigozhin has for months been accusing Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russia’s top general, Valery Gerasimov, of rank incompetence, but yesterday for the first time, rejected Russia’s core justifications for invading Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year in what it calls a “special military operation”. As reported by Reuters.
“… the Defence Ministry is trying to deceive society and the president and tell us a story about how there was crazy aggression from Ukraine and that they were planning to attack us with the whole of NATO,” Prigozhin said in a video clip released on Telegram by his press service, calling the official version “a beautiful story”.
“The special operation was started for different reasons,” he said. “The war was needed … so that Shoigu could become a marshal … so that he could get a second ‘Hero’ [of Russia] medal. The war wasn’t needed to demilitarise or denazify Ukraine.”
He also said the war had been needed to acquire “material assets” to divide among the ruling elite.
Prigozhin portrays his Wagner private militia, which spearheaded the capture of the city of Bakhmut last month, as Russia’s most effective fighting force, and has enjoyed unusual freedom to publicly criticise Moscow, albeit not President Vladimir Putin, on whose support he ultimately depends.
Yet his latest assertion runs directly counter to the rationale for the war espoused by Putin, who said when sending his armed forces into Ukraine that it was to demilitarise and denazify a country that posed a threat to Russia.
The Kremlin leader casts the conflict as an existential struggle against a Western alliance that wants to use Ukraine as a platform to destroy Russia.
Late reporting yesterday also indicated that Prigozhin claimed that his forces had crossed into Russia from Ukraine and had reached Rostov-on-Don, a city in southern Russia, saying they faced no resistance from young conscripts at checkpoints and that his forces “aren’t fighting against children.”
“But we will destroy anyone who stands in our way,” he said in one of a series of angry video and audio recordings posted on social media beginning late Friday. “We are moving forward and will go until the end.”
He claimed that the chief of the General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, scrambled warplanes to strike Wagner’s convoys, which were driving alongside ordinary vehicles. Prigozhin also said his forces shot down a Russian military helicopter that fired on a civilian convoy, but there was no independent confirmation.