Latest news and news of Russia’s war in Ukraine from January 13, 2023

The head of the Wagner group veiledly criticizes the Russian Defense Ministry for the fighting in Soledar

Yevgeny Prigozhin at a summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in August 2016. (Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP/FILE)

The head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has published a thinly veiled criticism of the Russian Defense Ministry over Soledar’s alleged capture.

His comments once again highlight the problems between Prigozhin and the Defense Ministry.

In a message posted on Telegram, the head of the Russian mercenary group stated that while the United States is “a serious adversary, it is not a key adversary at the moment,” while the Russian Defense Ministry is.

Prigozhin added that “significant damage to the Wagner group can be caused by our infighting, corruption, bureaucracy and officials who want to stay in their posts. These are more serious threats to Wagner.”

A Ukrainian official denied that Russia had taken the city, stating that fighting was continuing. A Ukrainian soldier stationed in the eastern city of Bakhmut told CNN that Ukrainian units are still on the borders of Soledar. But CNN’s Ben Wedeman, who is located just outside Soledar, witnessed Ukrainian forces transport troops in on Friday afternoon in what appeared to be an organized withdrawal.

Some background: CNN has previously reported on disputes between Prigozhin, nicknamed “Putin’s chef,” and Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

In a series of recent videos, Prigozhin said: “Once we conquer our internal bureaucracy and corruption, then we will conquer the Ukrainians and NATO. The problem now is that the bureaucrats and those who engage in corruption will not listen to us because for New Years they are all drinking champagne.”

In his Friday Telegram post, Prigozhin said that they “constantly steal the victory from Wagner and talk about the presence of someone who is not clear, just to belittle his merits.” This seems to be another hint at the lack of recognition of the fighting that Wagner’s units have been carrying out around and in Soledar.

On Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that its troops had taken the city, but did not mention the role of Wagner units in the victory. In recent days, Prigozhin has taken pains to make it clear that Wagner’s soldiers are fighting “exclusively” in the city.

What Ukraine says: A senior Ukrainian official on Friday called infighting between Russia’s various power factions a “sign of the beginning of the amazing end.”

Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said on Twitter that “public rumor” between the Russian Defense Ministry, Progozhin and General Sergei Surovikin “about who is fighting better in the 11th month of the war 3 days and who is going to sow Soledar with more of their corpses”.

“A good sign of the beginning of the amazing finale!” he said.

Surovikin was replaced as head of Russia’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine on Wednesday.

With information from Mick Krever.

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