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Putin Has a Problem: His Billionaire Allies Are Mad over Ukraine War

Su-27. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Su-27. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Sure, we all know the war in Ukraine is going historically bad for Russian President Putin. And it seems those close to him are finally letting him know what they think – and it is not good at all. 

The Russian billionaire who founded the notorious Wagner Group paramilitary confronted President Vladimir Putin about the mismanagement of the war in Ukraine, two US officials familiar with the matter told The Washington Post.

Yevgeniy Prigozhin met with Putin in private earlier in October to voice dissent as Russia chalked up mounting losses and failures in the face of Ukraine’s counteroffensive, per The Post.

The outlet reported that the exchange was considered important enough to be included in a daily intelligence briefing provided to President Joe Biden.

The encounter had previously been reported, including by Insider, citing The Post’s reporting, but without Prigozhin’s name.

According to the intelligence report, Prigozhin said the Russian Defense Ministry was leaning too heavily Wagner mercenaries while giving them insufficient support, per The Post.

In a statement to The Post, Prigozhin denied that he spoke to Putin and said he has no right to criticize Russia’s army.

“First, I did not communicate personally with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin either recently or in any foreseeable future,” he told the Post through his press service. “I did not criticize the management of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation during the conflict in Ukraine. Therefore, I cannot comment on anything.”

Experts say the private meeting was an indication that Prigozhin is comfortable enough to discuss sensitive matters with Putin and that his influence is growing.

“People like Prigozhin now see a chance to grab for the brass ring,” Fiona Hill, a former senior White House official, told The Post. “This really shows the system is under stress when people start pushing themselves forward like this.”

The Wagner Group is a Russian mercenary organization that has been linked to massacres and atrocities in Ukrainian cities like Bucha and has also been accused of committing widespread war crimes in other countries, including Libya, and Syria.

After years of staying quiet about his links to the organization, Prigozhin acknowledged earlier this month that he in fact founded it, Foreign Policy reported.

Prighozin is not the only Putin loyalist to voice criticism of the Russian military amid the ongoing conflict.

M777 like in Ukraine

U.S. Soldiers assigned to Attack Battery, 2-12th Field Artillery Battalion, Task Force Rock, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conducts registration and calibration for the M777 A2 Howitzer weapon system in Syria on Sept. 30, 2021. These exercises enable gun sections to deliver timely and accurate fires in support of TF Rock and their fight to defeat Daesh in designated areas of Syria. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Isaiah Scott). These are similar to the M777 pieces serving in Ukraine.

M777 Artillery Ukraine

US Military M777 Artillery. Ukraine Now Has a Similar System.

After Ukraine recaptured swathes of territory in its northeastern Kharkiv region last month, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov suggested that the military had made “mistakes” and that Putin might not be aware of what is happening on the ground, The Guardian reported. 

Sophia Ankel is a News Reporter based in London. She also has bylines in the Guardian, The Independent, and VICE. Sophia has spoken about her work on BBC Three Radio. This first appeared in Insider. 

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Sophia Ankel is a News Reporter based in London.