May 16, 2023

Where's the Ammunition?


Where's the Ammunition?
Wagner Group plot in the Chervyshev cemetery. Tyumen, Russia. Wikimedia Commons.

Following a threat on May 5 to pull his forces out of Bakhmut due to a lack of ammunition, Wagner Private Military Company (PMC) head Yevgeny Prigozhin reported that the Russian Ministry of Defense promised him "as much ammunition and weapons as we need" to continue operations there.

Al Jazeera reported that, in an audio message posted to Telegram on May 7, Prigozhin said he has "been promised as much ammunition and weapons as we need to continue further operations. We have been promised that everything needed to prevent the enemy from cutting us off will be deployed."

On May 5, Prigozhin appeared in a video, standing in a field of corpses, and blasted Russian defense leaders for a lack of assistance and resources. He claimed that Wagner was 70% short on the ammunition it needed and asked angrily, "Shoigu, Gerasimov, where the f*** is the ammunition?" He complained of the defense ministers' incompetence, saying that his men "came here as volunteers and are dying so that we can live in our mahogany offices." He said that pulling out of Bakhmut was required within five days – by May 10 – to prevent unacceptable losses.

The May 5 video was later lampooned by independent journalist Dmitry Kolezev, who noted that "to make them stop dying, you just have to stop sending them there."

Prigozhin's older video appears to be part of a wider tension with Russian military leaders. One day prior, on May 4, he warned against the use of nuclear weapons, a threat repeatedly postulated by Putin, stating that "we will look like clowns" if nuclear weapons are used in response to the recent Kremlin drone incident.

The threat of abandoning Bakhmut was particularly contentious on the Russian side, not only because, as The Hill reports, "Bakhmut is a strategic point in the Donetsk region and the wider eastern Donbas, which Russia has looked to seize this spring," but also because May 10 was the day after Victory Day, the major Russian holiday celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany.

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