Rivalry between Russia’s military and Wagner Group mercenaries in Ukraine, with Prigozhin’s criticism of Gerasimov and Surovikin’s removal.
In Ukraine, a rivalry between Russia’s military and the Wagner Group mercenaries led by Yevgeny Prigozhin has come to the fore. Prigozhin has publicly criticized Russia’s top military officers and is cultivating his own image through social media. The Kremlin may have replaced Gen. Sergei Surovikin with Gen. Valery Gerasimov as the overall commander of Russian forces in Ukraine in an attempt to balance the dynamics between the two camps.
The war in Ukraine has been going poorly for the Russians, and the Wagner Group has been struggling to overcome Ukrainian defenses in Bakhmut. Prigozhin and his mercenaries have blamed a lack of materiel support from the Russian military for their struggles and have tried to justify their lack of progress in Bakhmut. Gerasimov issued new general orders for all troops in Ukraine in an attempt to bolster morale and discipline, which Prigozhin has criticized.
The Russians have only managed to advance a few miles at the cost of thousands of troops and valuable military hardware. Wagner has taken the lead in the campaign to capture Bakhmut, but the group has suffered heavy casualties, with estimates of over 4,000 killed and over 10,000 wounded. Prigozhin and his forces appear emboldened by their minor successes around Bakhmut, but they have yet to achieve the goals set by Putin.
The rivalry between the Russian military and the Wagner Group has become increasingly public, with Prigozhin’s public outbursts and Gerasimov’s attempts to bolster morale and discipline. Prigozhin may be trying to justify Wagner’s struggles and may be using social media to cultivate his own image. With Wagner faltering at Bakhmut, Prigozhin’s hopes of challenging Russia’s military leadership appear to have been dashed.