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Wagner Chief Prigozhin Lashes Out at Russian Military Establishment


The founder of the Wagner private mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, makes a statement in an undisclosed location in this still image taken from video released May 5, 2023.

New developments:

  • The head of the Russian mercenary group fighting in Ukraine unleashed a tirade against Moscow, accusing it of incompetence, among other things.
  • A fired Russian general known as the "Butcher of Mariupol" has a new job. He's joining forces with the Wagner mercenary group.
  • The Kremlin said Russia's May 9 Victory Day parade, celebrating the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany and the end of World War II, would go on despite security concerns. Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the preparations Friday in a meeting with his Security Council.
  • Drones that Russia says it disabled over the Kremlin earlier this week were likely launched from inside Russia, U.S.-based drones experts said. Ukraine denies any involvement in the attack.

In his daily address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that on Friday and in recent days, he has held meetings with international leaders, including one Friday with a U.S. congressional delegation. The Ukrainian leader said that when countries help Ukraine, they also help themselves.

“We are doing everything to make the world hear Ukraine, understand Ukraine, and help Ukraine. Because by helping us, the world protects itself,” Zelenskyy said in his address.

Meanwhile, Russia wants a victory in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut on May 9, but the chief of the Russian Wagner mercenary force fighting there has threatened to retreat from the city by May 10 if he does not receive critically needed ammunition and other supplies from Moscow.

Yevgeny Prigozhin addresses the Russian army's top brass at an undisclosed location, in this video grab taken from a handout footage posted on May 5, 2023, on the Telegram account of the press-service of Concord.
Yevgeny Prigozhin addresses the Russian army's top brass at an undisclosed location, in this video grab taken from a handout footage posted on May 5, 2023, on the Telegram account of the press-service of Concord.

In a video posted on his Telegram channel Friday, Yevgeny Prigozhin unleashed a tirade directed at Russia's top brass, accusing them of negligence and incompetence. Pointing toward a field covered with dead soldiers, he screamed at the camera, "These are … someone's fathers and someone's sons" he said. "We have a 70% shortage of ammunition!"

"If you give [us] the normal amount of ammunition, there will be five times fewer [dead soldiers]," he said.

The Ukrainian military uses searchlights to detect and shoot down Russian drones in the sky over Kyiv, Ukraine, May 4, 2023.
The Ukrainian military uses searchlights to detect and shoot down Russian drones in the sky over Kyiv, Ukraine, May 4, 2023.

Fired Russian Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, known as the "Butcher of Mariupol," has joined the Wagner Group as a deputy commander, according to Russian pro-war social media channels.

In two videos posted by war correspondent Alexander Simonov on Telegram, Mizintsev— dressed in Wagner-branded combat gear — was shown visiting a training camp and touring Russian positions in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

The footage coincided with the release of Prigozhin's videotaped tirade, in which the Wagner chief accused Moscow of depriving his forces of ammunition because of jealousy over their success, Reuters reported.

In other developments, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar said Friday that Moscow is sending reinforcements to Bakhmut. She said the Kremlin is pulling Wagner mercenary fighters from other parts of the front line to redeploy them there.

Wagner boss Prigozhin said Friday his mercenary army had planned to capture Bakhmut May 9, or Victory Day, the anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in WWII, for which Moscow is organizing a large parade. President Vladimir Putin discussed the parade preparations in a meeting Friday with his Security Council, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

White House Denies Russian Allegations of US Involvement in Kremlin Drone Attack
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Putin will preside over the annual military parade at Red Square despite the Kremlin's assertions that Ukraine tried to kill him in a drone attack Wednesday. Kyiv has denied any involvement in the incident.

U.S.-based drone experts said the drones disabled over the Kremlin earlier this week had likely evaded an extensive number of defenses in and around Moscow, suggesting they might have been launched from inside Russia.

Blake Resnick, founder and CEO of drone maker BRINC, said such smaller drones would not be able to fly the more than 400-kilometer distance from Ukraine to Moscow. Resnick said it could indicate the drones were launched from inside Russia, Reuters reported.

Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov accused the United States on Thursday of being behind the alleged attack. He said Russia was "well aware that the decision on such actions and terrorist attacks is not made in Kyiv, but in Washington."

"And then Kyiv does what it's told to do," Peskov said, without offering evidence for his claim.

In Washington, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby rejected the Russian accusation, telling MSNBC, "I can assure you that there was no involvement by the United States. … We had nothing to do with this, so Peskov is just lying there, pure and simple."

Putin – International Criminal Court

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday he was convinced Putin would eventually face an international war crimes trial for Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

In a speech at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Zelenskyy said, "Only one Russian crime led to all of these crimes: This is the crime of aggression, the start of evil, the primary crime. There should be responsibility for this crime."

The ICC in March issued an arrest warrant for Putin on a war crimes charge involving the alleged deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children to Russia. Zelenskyy said Putin "deserves to be sentenced for these criminal actions right here in the capital of the international law."

The ICC cannot prosecute the crime of war aggression itself. But Zelenskyy appealed for a full-fledged tribunal to prosecute that overarching crime.

"If we want true justice, we should not look for excuses and should not refer to the shortcomings of the current international law but make bold decisions that will correct … shortcomings that unfortunately exist in international law," he said.

The chances of Putin standing trial in The Hague are remote. The court does not have a police force to execute its warrants, and the Russian leader is unlikely to travel to any of the ICC's 123 member states that are under an obligation to arrest him if they can. Neither the U.S. nor Russia recognizes the authority of the court.

Some material in this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.