Scandal in Russia's military leadership: What is being decided in Bakhmut

29 December 2022, 01:31 PM

Artillerymen of the Wagner PMC curse Chief of Staff Gerasimov over shell shortages.

A mega-scandal has erupted in Russian military leadership: artillerymen from PMC Wagner obscenely insulted the Chief of the General Staff of the RF Armed Forces, Gerasimov, due to a lack of shells. The owner of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, confirmed the authenticity of the appeal, and added that he would “force” Gerasimov to act.

Video of day

Wagner's statement was recorded against the backdrop of empty shell boxes for a howitzer, in a position near Bakhmut. The fighters (probably inmates) lambasted top Russian military leader Valery Gerasimov with their last words, and, judging by Prigozhin's reaction, they were acting on his instructions, confident in their impunity.

On his channel, Prigozhin's Cap, the Russian oligarch officially confirmed the authenticity of the address in a recorded audio message, where he said that he would force Gerasimov to do as he wanted, in fact directly threatening the top-ranking general. He also said that he would comment on his attitude towards the insults against Gerasimov on his own video.

In the video, Prigozhin showed how he went to a certain dugout and shook hands with his fighters – the authors of the video insult.

What does all this mean?

1. The Russian army has a real shortage of 152- and 122-mm howitzer artillery shells. After the depletion of their stocks, the Russian army has begun to fight only with those shells that its industry can produce, and these volumes are too small for a full-scale war. There is intense competition for receiving shells, and, of course, the General Staff of the Russian military first and foremost allocates shells to regular troops, and not to Wagner or mobilized soldiers.

2. Since success in the war is measured in the political and informational domain, Prigozhin urgently needs a victory. He needs to capture Bakhmut, as this will allow him to demonstrate that the combat capability of his private company is much higher than that of the regular Russian army, and thus allow him to gain additional resources, influence, people, and funding.

3. There is an irreconcilable struggle between the clique of Prigozhin and Kadyrov (the owners of private armies) and the clique of Defense Minister Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Gerasimov. Prigozhin and Kadyrov would like to remove Shoigu and Gerasimov and replace them with their own henchmen. Prigozhin himself would like to take the post of Minister of Defense, and he is promoting the commander of the war in Ukraine,Colonel General Surovikin, as Chief of the General Staff. The conflict is long-standing and irreconcilable - Prigozhin's firms have repeatedly tried to take the place of the main supplier of food for the Ministry of Defense, but Shoigu has fought off these attempts each time. Now the fate of many years of intrigue depends on the capture of Bakhmut.

4. Will the law criminalizing discrediting the Russian military be applied to Prigozhin? Or can the Russian Chief of the General Staff be talked about this way without any consequences? Russian generals and officers have already repeatedly been subjected to public insults by Prigozhin and Kadyrov, but the Russian Defense Ministry is afraid to even publicly defend their commanders. They are intimidated. This means that the Russian Armed Forces will not be able to carry out high-quality management reforms in their top leadership under such pressure.

5. Russia has lost absolute superiority in firepower, and now Ukraine has every opportunity to create fire superiority on the battlefield within the next year. The war is moving into the stage of confrontation between industrial systems, with the number of troops and guns no longer of key importance. Now it is important who will be able to expand their supply of howitzer and mortar shells, and who is able to bring down more ammunition on the enemy.

The war will be won by better defense planning and more mass production of munitions. The deployment of the joint production in Europe and Ukraine, and the loading of orders for all foreign manufacturers of shells, from the United States to Pakistan, will allow Ukraine to achieve superiority over the Russian defense industry. We have access to the entire global market. We need to make the production of shells and mines an absolute priority in defense planning.

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