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Putin Has Lost Control Of The Wagner Group

Putin has failed to temper Prigozhin, the head of Russia’s private mercenary group, Wagner. In fact, Prigozhin is now becoming a global household name, finding himself in the media spotlight more frequently even than Putin. He is a clear and present threat to the Russian regime’s longevity at this point.

This week, Prigozhin went public with some numbers that ring loudly in the corridors of the Kremlin. He said that 20,000 Wagner soldiers (many of them prisoner recruits) had been killed in the battle for Bakhmut in Ukraine - the key flashpoint of this phase of the war. In all, for the battle of Bakhmut, Wagner says it recruited 50,000 men from Russian prisons - 20% of whom have been killed. Releasing this information may not make Wagner look good in terms of its military prowess, but what it does is reveal losses that Moscow has either been doctoring or withholding entirely. Prigozhin is laying everything bare without Putin’s blessing.

Prigozhin is also taking credit for what he claimed over the past weekend was his successful capture of Bakhmut. Last Saturday, he claimed to have fully taken Bakhmut, though Ukrainian officials at the time denied this. 

His claim of victory in Bakhmut was followed by two more brazen statements. First, Prigozhin said that Wagner would hand control of Bakhmut to the Russian Defense Ministry on June 1st. But how he qualified that was a direct challenge to Putin: If Wagner cannot hand over its Bakhmut positions…

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