Russian Army on collision course with Wagner over Shoigu removal call

Russia: Expert discusses Sergei Shoigu

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Vladimir Putin’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has been blamed for the dire performance of the Russian Army in Ukraine opening up cracks in the once ironclad Kremlin hierarchy. Yevgeny Prigozhin the founder of the notorious Wagner Group mercenary force, has clashed with Shoigu and according to Kremlinologists, is now looking to exploit discontent with the conduct of the war to unseat his rival. 

Bellingcat’s Lead Russia Investigator, Christo Grozev has detailed the “growing competition” between Putin’s top general and the commander of his shadowy mercenary force. 

Mr Grozev told CNN: “What is interesting from my point of you is the news ambition that Prigozhin has obtained in that he believes he is much better than the regular army, his people are better equipped than the regular army, he knows how to manage and motivate them, and incentivise them better.

“This has been a kind of growing competition between him and the regular army, and Shoigu the defence minister.

He added: “It has escalated to a point that we have not seen before where Prigozhin in a fake response to a fake question from one of his own media, said that in fact some people should get the boot and he clearly talking about Shoigu in this statement.”

Tensions with the Kremlin have worsened as the Ukraine Army scores victory after victory against Russian forces, with the tide of the war seeming to decisively turn against Moscow.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday that his troops are holding out against repeated attacks near two key towns in the eastern Donbas region. 

Mr Zelensky, speaking in an evening video address, also said there would be good news from the front, but gave no details.

The most severe fighting is taking place near Avdiivka, outside Donetsk, and Bakhmut, further to the northeast, he said.

Russian soldiers complain about conditions on the front line

“This is where the craziness of the Russian command is most evident. Day after day, for months, they are driving people to their deaths there, concentrating the highest level of artillery strikes,” he said.

Russian forces have repeatedly tried to seize Bakhmut because of its strategic position close to the Ukrainian-held cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

President Zelensky’s advisor Oleksiy Arestovych said on Tuesday that on one particular day, the Russians had attacked Bakhmut eight times before lunch and been pushed back every time.

Ukraine’s President did not mention what was happening near the southern city of Kherson, which is held by pro-Moscow forces.

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Ukrainian troops say they expect a tough fight there.

In his latest address to the nation, President Zelensky said: “Generally, we are strengthening our positions all over the frontline, reducing the invaders’ capabilities, destroying their logistics, and preparing good news for Ukraine.”

Russian-installed authorities in Shakhtarsk, just to the east of Donetsk, said Ukrainian shelling had set ablaze fuel tanks at the town’s railway station.

Ukrainian forces, some equipped with artillery supplied by the United States and other allies, have methodically shelled Russian fuel and ammunition bases and railway lines.

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