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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Putin vs. Prigozhin: Russia's Army In Chaos, The Wagner Group On The Brink

The owner of the Wagner mercenary group says he will refuse an order from Russia’s defense ministry to fold his fighters into the regular military but it may be a sign that the Russian government finally wants to get rid of the increasingly powerful mercenary chief.

Photo of Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin addressing his units

Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin addresses his units withdrawing from the city captured from the Ukrainian Armed Forces

Anna Akage


Yevgeny Prigozhin, the one time close friend of Putin and founder of the Wagner Group mercenary outfit, took a leading role in the war in Ukraine just months after Russia’s full-scale invasion last year.

But along the way Prigozhin has also made enemies at the highest levels of Russia’s military leadership and it looks increasingly like the mercenary chief has lost the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has so far protected Wagner from the wrath of Russia’s military establishment.

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The military now wants to disband Prigozhin’s troops: in a June 10 statement, the Ministry of Defense said that before July 1, all fighters serving outside the official military would have to sign contracts placing them under the authority of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Prigozhin's reaction was lightning fast: on Telegram, he said he would refuse the order, and fired back at Shoigu by saying that Wagner’s fighters are more effective on the battlefield because Shoigu does not command them.

From the top

The conflict between the two has been going on for months. Prigozhin regularly criticizes Russia’s military command in public, often personally insulting Shoigu and his aides. He has also accused Shoigu of sabotaging Wagner's supplies and infrastructure, and directing artillery fire at Wagner units near Bakhmut.

But if Prigozhin is truly outside the Ministry of Defense chain of command, no one — not even Shoigu — can give him orders. The recent ultimatum signals that Prigozhin has finally outlived his usefulness to Putin, and can no longer count on the president’s support.

It’s unlikely that the Russian defense ministry would want to withdraw Wagner from military operations entirely, as Prigozhin has threatened to do — in fact, it is in the Kremlin's interests to expand the Wagner team in Ukraine.

And it would be difficult to eliminate Prigozhin, who is an increasingly popular public figure. He has the backing of the many Russians who support the war but believe the military establishment has done a bad job in Ukraine.

Photo of \u200bRussia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu

Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu attends a meeting of the Council of Defence Ministers of the Collective Security Treaty Organization

Vadim Savitsky/TASS

Prigozhin is also in open conflict with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, which means that some Russian nationalists are on his side as well. Kadyrov has publicly said that Prigozhin is skimming money from his company’s contracts to supply food to the Russian military.

And adding to Putin’s concern may also be Prigozhin’s so-called "troll factory," the Internet Research Agency, a powerful online network accused of interfering in the last U.S. election which Prigozhin uses to promote his own agenda at home and abroad.

Prigozhin commands a loyal army, enjoys the support of many Russians and runs his own media channels. What else does the oligarch need to become Vladimir Putin's sworn enemy? In Moscow, people can go to jail for less.

This discord amongst Russia’s motley forces is playing out against the backdrop of Ukraine’s counter-offensive — and pro-Ukrainian forces are thrilled.

"The Wagner Group is becoming a threat to Russian power, so they are tapping into all the resources of the Defense Ministry, Ramzan Kadyrov and many others. This spat is heating up and can only be welcomed," Russian analyst and blogger Michael Nacke said in response to Russia’s recent internal conflict. In his opinion, the more discord in the Russian military ranks, the better: internal bickering will tie up resources and distract from the war, making them less effective and improving the odds of a successful Ukrainian offensive.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Israel's Assault On Southern Gaza Will Be One Step Too Far For Washington

Launching a ground invasion in the south of Gaza, where residents have been forced to flee, will be virtually impossible for the Biden Administration to accept.

Photograph of a Palestinian child looks through a broken window of a destroyed house

November 15, 2023, Rafah: A Palestinian child looks through a broken window of a destroyed house.

Abed Rahim Khatib/ZUMA
Pierre Haski


In five weeks of bombings followed by a ground invasion, the Israeli army has effectively taken control of the northern third of the Gaza Strip. Much of the population has been forced to seek refuge in the south, while those who've stayed are in an extremely difficult position: almost all hospitals have ceased to function, and military operations continue non-stop.

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Now, Israel has given the first sign of its intention to push its offensive against Hamas into southern Gaza, precisely where it had said it was safe to go. Leaflets were dropped in four localities around the vast Khan Yunis refugee camp in the south, asking residents to evacuate.

But where to go? Gaza already has the highest population density in the world, and the influx of hundreds of thousands of displaced people from north to south, in a war-torn environment, without water, sanitation, or medicine, creates a dramatic humanitarian situation.

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