A prominent pro-Kremlin blogger recently interviewed Yevgeny Prigozhin, who founded the Wagner Group. He expressed his growing dissatisfaction with the Russian leadership, claiming the Ukrainian war had backfired and the Kremlin was at risk of a revolution.
According to Prigozhin, the capture of Bakhmut was more of a symbolic victory than a strategic one for his private military company during the hour-long interview. He criticized Russia’s failed goal of demilitarizing Ukraine and proposed a change in the top leadership as a necessary measure.
Prigozhin surprisingly praised the Ukrainian army as one of the strongest in the world and speculated that they could potentially retake territory in eastern Ukraine and even the Crimean Peninsula in an upcoming counteroffensive. He lamented that the invasion, originally ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin 15 months ago to “denazify” Ukraine, had failed to achieve meaningful results and had instead tarnished Russia’s reputation globally.
Despite his frequent criticisms of the military leadership, Prigozhin has faced no apparent political consequences thus far. However, the pro-Russian blogger who conducted the interview, Konstantin Dolgov, was reportedly fired the day after the conversation.
Experts, such as Thomas Graham from the Council on Foreign Relations, believe that Prigozhin’s overarching goal is not to tarnish Russia’s image but to criticize the conduct of the war and advocate for a more aggressive approach. Comparisons were drawn between Prigozhin and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, both of whom oversee military units and have occasionally criticized the war’s execution without directly challenging Putin or the war itself.
Prigozhin’s Wagner Group, which has been involved in the fighting in eastern Ukraine since October, paid a heavy price for its recent capture of Bakhmut. Many of these prisoner soldiers were sent to the front lines to make incremental advances. Prigozhin gained attention for his fiery rants during the battle, specifically targeting Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Commander Valery Gerasimov for their perceived shortcomings.
Since the capture of Bakhmut, Prigozhin has become increasingly bold. He referred to his army as the toughest in the world, positioning himself above the Russian military, which he deemed the second strongest. In the interview, he directly criticized Shoigu and other Russian elites, accusing them of shielding their children from war while others suffer.
Prigozhin’s recent remarks coincided with the incursion of pro-Ukrainian militia groups into Belgorod, a Russian region bordering Ukraine. The Russian military clashed with these resistance groups, claiming they were Russian citizens seeking to overthrow the Kremlin. Prigozhin criticized Russia’s Ministry of Defense on Telegram for its failure to secure the borders.
Prigozhin warned that corruption during a time of war could lead Russia down the path of revolution, drawing parallels with the events of 1917 when the Bolsheviks toppled the monarchy and established communism.