The capture of Soledar, a small and completely destroyed Ukrainian city, the fighting for which lasted more than a month and led to numerous casualties on both sides, became a new “bone of contention” between the Wagner PMC and the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The regular army and the PMC of the notorious businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin could not share the laurels of the first victory in Ukraine after months of retreats, regroupings and defeats.
Having recruited 40,000 prisoners from prisons and sent them to break through the front in the Donetsk region, Prigozhin announced the capture of Soledar on January 11. The “entire territory” of the city has been taken “under control” and a “cauldron” has been formed in its center, Prigozhin said on Wednesday and published photographs in the salt mines where Artyomsol, Ukraine’s largest plant, operated before the war.
The Russian Defense Ministry refuted Prigozhin’s statements on the same day and reported that the Airborne Forces units had blockaded the city, and assault squads had entered the city.
Two days later, the Ministry of Defense announced that the city had been taken. This happened on the evening of January 12, Igor Konashenkov, official representative of the department, said at a briefing. According to him, the capture of Soledar will allow blocking the supply routes of the Ukrainian army, and then “bringing the forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine remaining in it into the cauldron.”
The press service of Prigozhin’s Concord company responded by circulating a statement by the head of the League for the Defense of the Interests of Veterans of Local Wars and Military Conflicts, Andrei Troshev, who said that the reports of the Ministry of Defense were “surprising.”
“There was not a single paratrooper on Soledar, the paratroopers themselves confirm this. Soledar was taken solely by the efforts of the Wagner PMC fighters. And there is no need to offend the fighters by humiliating their merit, ”Troshin was indignant.
He urged “to fight, not to measure members” and accused the Ministry of Defense of “stealing other people’s merits.”
Prigozhin himself did not directly comment on the reports of the Russian Defense Ministry. He stated that the answers would be given “not now”, but for now “the boat is already rocking.”“I hope you understand why I kept silent,” Prigogine said.
Formerly a St. Petersburg restaurateur known as “Putin’s chef” and later made rich on government contracts by the Defense Ministry, Prigozhin has a private army of 50,000, according to US intelligence estimates. Of these, 80% are former prisoners, who are promised not only a pardon, but also a possible “pass to power” – up to seats in the United Russia party and chairs of officials and State Duma deputies.
Prigozhin has dramatically increased his influence, and in some cases, Russian troops are in a subordinate position to his PMC, John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said in late December, citing intelligence.
But Prigozhin, who had grown bolder and began to criticize the generals, began to cause growing discontent among those close to Vladimir Putin, sources close to the president’s old friends, the FSB and the military told Important Stories.
According to them, Prigogine crossed the road the first deputy head of the presidential administration, Sergei Kiriyenko, in particular, invaded his area of responsibility and is trying to influence the appointment and dismissal of officials, the publication claims. In addition, Kiriyenko does not like the fact that Prigozhin has launched a stormy activity in the self-proclaimed republics of Donbass, which he oversees.