Double Cross or Desperation?
Unpacking Prigozhin's Alleged Ukrainian Gambit Amidst Russian Tensions
Yevgeny Prigozhin (Wikimedia Commons)
New light has been shed on US intelligence, thanks to classified documents reportedly lifted by Jack Teixeira, a former Massachusetts Air National Guardsman.
As The Washington Post suggests, these documents indicate Yevgeny Prigozhin, the man at the helm of Wagner PMC, proposed intelligence on Russian troop positions to Ukraine in exchange for their withdrawal from the disputed Bakhmut region.
While occasional communication between adversaries is not unheard of, this particular line of communication between Prigozhin and Ukraine's intelligence service, the HUR, was reportedly held in secret on African soil. One Ukrainian official described the communications as embodying the adage of keeping one's friends close and enemies closer.
Prigozhin has vehemently denied any intent to betray Russia, labeling such allegations as a "hoax". He likewise disputes claims of offering to withdraw from Bakhmut or having met with Ukrainian intelligence.
With both Wagner forces and regular Russian troops suffering significant casualties, Prigozhin's discontent is public knowledge. He has previously aired grievances about inadequate ammunition supply for his forces, even threatening to withdraw from Bakhmut if the Kremlin fails to address these needs.
But are these allegations grounded in reality, or are they merely disinformation? Did Prigozhin genuinely offer this intelligence to Ukraine? Was his threat to retreat from Bakhmut sincere?
Some suggest this saga points to mounting friction between Prigozhin and other Russian military leaders, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov. Prigozhin has accused Gerasimov of failing to provide adequate ammunition to his men, a public complaint that seems to have ruffled the feathers of Russian officials who are trying to discredit him.
Despite their documented war crimes, the Wagner forces have, according to many accounts, proved more competent than the regular Russian military. Major General Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Ukrainian Intelligence Directorate, echoes this sentiment.
Ukrainian sources are also claiming that Russian forces and Wagner units are locked in combat with one another, each blaming the other for tactical failures against Ukraine. Regardless, Prigozhin's deadline for withdrawal from Bakhmut has come and gone, with Wagner forces still occupying the area, having received the demanded supplies.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declined to confirm any interactions with Prigozhin, maintaining that such matters were under the purview of military intelligence. Despite this lack of official confirmation, Ukraine has reportedly declined Prigozhin's offer, with Kiev questioning his trustworthiness.
Interestingly, Major General Kyrylo Budanov appears to contradict this sentiment. In an interview with "Rizni Liudy", he stated: "The most terrible thing is that what Prigozhin says is mostly true... 80 percent of what he says is pure truth."
However, with the ongoing war showing no signs of cessation, the people of Ukraine seem largely indifferent to Prigozhin's words.