Information about the conflict between the Russian military fighting in Ukraine and mercenaries from the Wagner PMC is a product of manipulation, the Kremlin claims. According to Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, such a conflict exists only “in the information space,” Interfax reports.
Peskov claims that mercenaries, mobilized and contract soldiers “are doing a common thing <...>, and this should be treated this way.” “The country must know and knows its heroes” from both the armed forces and the Wagner PMC, he added.
“Both of them will forever be in our memory,” summed up the Kremlin spokesman.
The growing contradictions between Prigozhin, on the one hand, and the political and military leadership of the country, on the other hand, began to be reported in the media at the end of December 2022. According to them, Prigozhin, who once denied belonging to a PMC, and now criticizes the generals, invaded the area of responsibility of the first deputy head of the presidential administration, Sergei Kiriyenko. In particular, he launched activities in the self-proclaimed republics of Donbass, which Kiriyenko oversees, and even tries to influence the appointments and dismissals of officials.
According to the US authorities, Prigozhin has increased his influence so much that by the end of December, in some cases, Russian troops are in a subordinate position to his PMC.
On January 11, Prigozhin announced that his mercenaries had taken control of the Ukrainian city of Soledar, which had been fighting for more than a month. The Russian Defense Ministry refuted Prigozhin’s statements on the same day and reported that airborne units had blockaded the city, and assault squads had entered it.
Two days later, the Ministry of Defense announced that the city had been taken. 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 insult the fighters by humiliating their merit, ”Troshin was indignant.
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,” said Prigozhin.
As a result, the Ministry of Defense issued a statement in which it officially mentioned Wagner PMC for the first time. The department said that the city was stormed “a heterogeneous grouping of Russian troops according to a single concept and plan.”
“As for the direct assault on the city blocks of Soledar occupied by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, this combat mission was successfully completed by the courageous and selfless actions of the volunteers of the Wagner assault squads,” the ministry acknowledged.