The Feud Over Ammunition Shortages: Wagner Group Leader Threatens to Withdraw Fighters from Bakhmut

The head of the Wagner Group private military force, Evgeny Prigozhin, has been engaged in a long-standing feud with the Russian Defense Ministry (MOD).[0] He has accused the MOD of high treason and has repeatedly criticized it for a lack of ammunition and supplies.[1] For months, Prigozhin has been expressing his dissatisfaction with what he perceives as a shortage of ammunition.[2] At the beginning of the year, he dispatched an envoy to Ukraine's military base in Russia, requesting additional provisions, but was reportedly turned down.[2]

The battle for Bakhmut, a small industrial city with a pre-war population of 70,000, has been the scene of the war’s most intense fighting for months, costing thousands of lives on both sides.[3] Russian and Ukrainian forces have clashed there since the summer of 2022, and Prigozhin's Wagner Group has been heavily involved in the fight. Prigozhin has recently requested the Russian Defense Ministry to promptly provide additional ammunition.[4] He issued a threat on April 29, stating that his fighters would withdraw from the city unless the ministry provided additional supplies without delay.[4]

Last week, Prigozhin threatened to pull his mercenaries out of Bakhmut after suffering losses due to ammunition shortages, but on Sunday he said that he had received a “promise” of more ammunition from the Russian army.[5] However, in a video released on Tuesday, Prigozhin said troops were fleeing because of the “stupidity” of Russian army commanders.[6] Prigozhin said his forces would leave Bakhmut by May 10.[7]

In the past, Prigozhin engaged in a conflict with the highest-ranking officials in Russia regarding military strategies. He accused the military leaders of committing “high treason” by denying his group access to ammunition.[8] Despite his recent threat to leave Bakhmut, he ultimately decided to remain.[1] In early May, Prigozhin published a video online that showed him standing in front of numerous dead bodies and shouting obscenities at Russia’s top military leadership, demanding they provide his forces with the ammo they need after months of heavy losses.[9]

The White House estimates that Russia has lost nearly 20,000 soldiers since December, with nearly half of those killed from the Wagner Group.[2] Military analysts have said the Russian Defense Ministry could be rationing ammunition not only to sideline Prigozhin, who has been at loggerheads with them for months, but also to save up supplies ahead of a much-anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive.[9]

For months, the fight for Bakhmut has been the most intense battle of the war in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, as Russia views it as a crucial step towards capturing other cities. The conflict has resulted in the loss of thousands of lives on both sides.[10] In the past few weeks, Ukrainian troops have faced setbacks, but have retained some level of authority in the region while causing significant damage to both Russian soldiers and militants from the Wagner private military company.[3]

Prigozhin's threats to withdraw his forces from Bakhmut come amid a broader escalation of tensions between Russia and Ukraine. The two countries have been in conflict since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, with fighting in eastern Ukraine continuing since then. The situation has escalated in recent months, with both sides accusing each other of military build-ups and aggressive posturing.

In conclusion, Prigozhin's ongoing feud with the Russian Defense Ministry over ammunition shortages highlights the complexity and challenges of private military forces operating in conflicts around the world. The battle for Bakhmut is just one example of the deadly consequences of these conflicts, with thousands of lives lost on both sides. As tensions continue to escalate between Russia and Ukraine, it remains to be seen what the future holds for the region and the people caught in the crossfire.

0. “Prigozhin’s meltdown” GZERO Media, 9 May. 2023,

1. “Wagner chief rages at Russia’s generals and threatens Bakhmut pullout” The Guardian, 5 May. 2023,

2. “Why Russia’s Wagner Group leader is ‘yelling mutiny’ in Ukraine war” The Hill, 6 May. 2023,

3. “‘The Whole Army Must Move Forward': Fighting Rages In Bakhmut As Momentum Builds For Ukraine's Counteroffensive” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, 6 May. 2023,

4. “Prigozhin Reveals Rows of Dead Wagner Troops, Curses Russian Army Leaders” Newsweek, 5 May. 2023,

5. “Prigozhin Claims ‘Deception' and ‘Threats' from Defense Ministry” The Moscow Times, 9 May. 2023,

6. “Russian troops abandon positions near Bakhmut, says Wagner boss” Al Jazeera English, 9 May. 2023,

7. “Wagner Group boss threatens to pull Bakhmut troops in Ukraine” USA TODAY, 5 May. 2023,

8. “Video Shows Russian Machine Gun Position Decimated in Bakhmut: Ukraine” Newsweek, 8 May. 2023,

9. “Russian troops are deserting in Bakhmut, Wagner group complains” The Telegraph, 9 May. 2023,

10. “Wagner chief to Putin: Don’t trust your top generals” POLITICO Europe, 9 May. 2023,

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