Wagner Group leader: Russia will lose territory in Ukraine if Moscow relents

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Ukrainians will likely retake the territory they lost to Russian annexation, such as Crimea, if Moscow lets up on the pressure and declares victory too early, according to Yevgeny Prigozhin, commander of the Wagner Group mercenary forces.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his Western benefactors would quickly roll through any hastily erected borders between Ukraine and Russia’s newly acquired territory, Mr. Prigozhin said this weekend on his group’s Telegram social media site.

“I am absolutely sure that Ukraine, with the help of the NATO bloc, will break through these ‘red lines’ and return those territories that belonged to it until 2014,” Mr. Prigozhin said. “Do I like this new story? No, I do not like. It may turn out to be even more tragic and bloody than the first. Therefore, it is necessary to fight for Russia here and now.”

A close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr. Prigozhin was nicknamed “Putin’s chef” because he owns several restaurants and catering companies. 

His Wagner Group mercenaries have taken a lead role in the current fighting around the disputed Ukrainian town of Bakhmut.

But Mr. Prigozhin also has engaged in a war of words with senior Russian military leaders. Most recently, he has complained about being denied ammunition needed to carry on the fight.

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“Orders were given for shipment (of the ammunition) on February 23, but to date, most of (it) has not been shipped,” Mr. Prigozhin wrote. “We understand what the reasons are — ordinary bureaucracy or betrayal.”

He claims that top Russian military officials are trying to squeeze the Wagner Group out of the decision-making process of the fighting in Ukraine, despite his group’s major role.

“My representation at the headquarters had his pass canceled and was denied access to the group’s headquarters,” Mr. Prigozhin wrote on Telegram.

When pressed to talk about his future plans, Mr. Prigozhin said he has no political ambitions and asked people to stop asking about that.

“The fewer questions about my political ambitions, the more ammunition they will give us,” he said.

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