Yevgeny Prigozhin on the likely outcome of war in Ukraine
The children of Russia’s top officials have been called out for “showing off” their life of luxury while “ordinary people … are being torn to pieces” fighting in Ukraine. Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch leading a group of mercenary fighters in eastern Ukraine, issuing another rebuke of the Kremlin’s elite in a long interview published on Tuesday, threatened to incite a revolution against the rich avoiding conscription by embarking on lavish holidays to the Middle East.
He described the children of Russian war commanders as “fat and carefree”, warning that he would use his influence to force some of them to fight for his Wagner Group.
The Wagner financier, formerly known as “Putin’s Chef” for catering for the autocrat’s decadent state dinners, claimed there was fierce public resentment towards the disparity in treatment among Russia’s rich and poor.
While many Russian civilians are being forced to take part in the “special military operation”, often against their will, the families of Russian generals and politicians, most of which are within the conscription age bracket, have spent the past 15 months travelling abroad and “showing off” their opulent lifestyles on Instagram and Facebook.
Prigozhin suggested the “villas” of those children would be stormed by “ordinary people” armed with “pitchforks” in his latest rant.
“Everything might end as in 1917, with a revolution — when first the soldiers rise up, and then their loved ones,” he told pro-war blogger Konstantin Dolgov, referring to the uprising against Tsar Nicholas II that eventually swept Vladimir Lenin into power.
The Wagner Group chief previously called out the son-in-law of Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu, warning that he would pressgang him into his ranks.
Alexey Stolyarov, a 33-year-old fitness blogger who is Shoigu’s son-in-law, is married to Ksenia Shoigu, and both their social media accounts are flooded with pictures from their holidays over the past year to places such as the United Arab Emirates. They spent their New Year’s Eve at the Caesars Palace Dubai, according to their social media.
Prigozhin accused the defence minister of protecting his son-in-law while he accused Ksenia of spending illicit funds on leading a life of luxury.
“How can Shoigu’s son-in-law go to the United Arab Emirates and shake his bum around?” Prigozhin said at the time.
In his latest attack, he said: “The children of the elite smear themselves with creams, and show off on the internet, while ordinary people’s children come home in zinc [coffins], torn to pieces.
“I recommend that the elite of the Russian Federation gathers up its youth and send them to war.”
Verbal assaults against the Kremlin’s elite by the Wagner Group have become a frequent occurrence since attempts to take Bakhmut descended into bloody chaos.
Prigozhin has suggested at least 20,000 of his fighters have died contesting the city in eastern Ukraine alone.
Last week, three Wagner fighters threatened Viktor Sobolev, a high-ranking Russian MP who had warned Russian soldiers against joining the “illegal” mercenary group after they threatened to withdraw from Bakhmut due to a lack of ammunition supplies.
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The masked mercenaries told Sobolev they would “come to Red Square and f*** you and people like you in the arse”. It is highly likely, according to analysts, that those remarks were made with Prigozhin’s approval.
The Kremlin is notoriously sensitive to criticism but so far no action has been taken against the Wagner chief, leading to speculation that Putin views these unbridled verbal assaults against military leaders as useful.
Analysts have suggested that the attacks, which appear to be directed at every decision-maker in Moscow other than the President, serve to benefit Putin in his attempts to appear blameless for the costly full-scale invasion, which he himself ordered.
And although private military companies are banned under Russian law, the Wagner Group has been praised by both the Kremlin and state media, including by Putin regarding their alleged capture of Bakhmut last week.
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