Wagner’s Prigozhin is looking to build personal army, expert says

6 January, 05:11 AM
Notice of putting Yevhen Prigozhin on the FBI wanted list on the FBI website (Photo:FBI/Handout via REUTERS)

Notice of putting Yevhen Prigozhin on the FBI wanted list on the FBI website (Photo:FBI/Handout via REUTERS)

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of Russian private military company Wagner Group and former caterer at the Kremlin, uses the “meatgrinder” of Bakhmut to build up and harden his personal army, military analyst and Israel Defense Forces officer Yigal Levin said in an interview with NV Radio on Jan. 6.

“It seems to me that the real reason (for Wagner’s involvement in Bakhmut) – he is preparing for turmoil in Russia,” said Levin.

“He understands perfectly well that he needs trained ‘war dogs’, the proper structures and the right people who are afraid of him. He needs others to fear him, including his own people. I suspect he isn’t a stupid person. He perfectly understands that something is coming. When it does  – he wants to have people hardened in battles, in some kind of meat grinders. So, he just needs meat grinders.”

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Levin added that if Wagner was not ordered to keep assaulting Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, for months on end, Prigozhin would have done the same somewhere else on the battlefield.

"If they have an order to storm somewhere else, they storm somewhere else,” Levin added.

“Vuhledar (Donetsk Oblast), for example. He will move his ‘dogs’ there for training. I'm not talking about the convicts right now, who are being thrown into these futile attacks, but about the Wagner (professional) minority. Their professional fighters are still there. ... They will remain under Prigozhin, they are his trained ‘dogs’. Only they will be very experienced, angry, and resourceful. They are also being given tanks now, by the way. T-90 tanks, all sorts of helicopters, plus resources, money – all sorts of things."

On Jan. 6, Reuters quoted a senior White House source who said that Prigozhin's obsession with Bakhmut was related to his desire to take control of the salt and gypsum mines near the city.

According to media reports, he was also engaged in similar activity in African countries, where he sent his mercenaries to support local regimes, in exchange for control over natural resources.

In particular, as the New York Times earlier wrote, the Wagner PMC has controlled several gold mines in Sudan. The gold was used to replenish Russian reserves, which remain under the Western sanctions.

Prigozhin was also engaged in similar mining operations in the Central African Republic, Mali, and other places where Wagner was operating.

As for Bakhmut, the Russian warlord encountered tremendous difficulties there. Despite all his efforts and colossal losses, even after more than six months of constant assaults, Wagner mercenaries are still unable to take the city.

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