The head of Russia’s mercenary Wagner group has lauded the competence of the Ukrainian Armed Forces summer offensive in a video posted on social media, and confirmed that his forces would redeploy to the front lines in Ukraine on August 5.
"They are cutting off certain parts in the Zaporizhzhia direction,” Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a video shared on a propaganda Telegram channel on Wednesday June 14. “At the same time, they are covering their left flank – where all these battles are now, [the Ukrainian village of] Urozhaine, and so on.
“They estimate the area they have managed to occupy as 100 sq. km. According to my calculations, [it may be] even a little more.”
Terrorist Prigozhin confirmed that Wagner PMC will not sign contracts with Russian ministry of defense. He said Wagner would return to combat on 5th August.— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) June 14, 2023
Prigozhin also praised the Ukrainian Army. pic.twitter.com/xzrqIeHzJG
Addressing Russian claims of significant losses suffered by Ukrainian troops, Prigozhin dismissed them as merely being "ordinary combat losses."
He added: "They move carefully, calmly. They lost two Leopards [tanks] and several Bradleys [infantry fighting vehicles]. Ordinary combat losses. I'm not talking for [the benefit of] their PR. But in order for us to soberly assess. Therefore, it's too early to rejoice," said the head of Wagner.
CNN reported that, during another interview with Danish media on June 13, Prigozhin further asserted that Ukraine's military capabilities in countering Russia are far from being depleted. He insisted that any offensive action and its outcome should be evaluated only after exhausting the enemy's offensive potential.
"Any offensive, as well as its results, should be evaluated after the offensive potential of the enemy has been exhausted," Prigozhin said. "As far as I understand, Ukraine's offensive potential is far from exhausted."
Prigozhin’s assessment of Ukraine’s summer offensive differs wildly from that coming from the Kremlin.
On Tuesday during a press conference, Putin claimed that Ukraine was suffering massive losses, saying that Kyiv's casualties were ten times higher than Moscow's.
“Their losses are approaching a level that could be described as catastrophic,” he said. “We have 10 times fewer losses than those of the armed forces of Ukraine.”
He also claimed that Ukraine has lost 160 tanks and more than 360 other armored vehicles in recent days, but provided no evidence for his claims.
Elsewhere and reiterating earlier statements, Prigozhin assured his mercenaries would not enter into contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry.
"Those fairy tales of the leadership of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation that those who do not sign a contract with the Ministry of Defense will not be able to participate in the 'Special Military Operation' – no one can forbid a 'Russian man' from defending his land," he summed up.
It was widely reported that all Russian volunteer formations are expected to sign contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense by July 1 2023, a move apparently aimed at establishing unified command and control of troops.
While the official directive did not specifically mention the Wagner PMC, it was widely perceived as an attempt by the Kremlin to gain control over Prigozhin's influential private army. However, while he declared that this decision would not apply to Wagner, President Vladimir Putin reiterated the necessity for private military companies to sign contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense during a meeting with military officers on July 13,.
"This is the only way to provide social guarantees [for mercenaries], because if there is no contract with the state, there is no contract with the Ministry of Defense, then there are no legal grounds for social guarantees from the state. We need to do this, and do it as soon as possible," Putin said.
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