War in Ukraine

Wagner chief risks further angering Putin as he dismisses Moscow generals as ‘a bunch of clowns’

Wagner warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin has risked further angering Vladimir Putin by dismissing Moscow’s generals as ‘a bunch of clowns’ while boasting that his mercenary army is superior to the Russian Armed Forces.

Ambitious henchman Yevgeny Prigozhin – who runs the 50,000-strong Wagner private army – is increasingly seen as posing a rising threat to the Kremlin leader with his daily grandstanding and outspoken boasts.

His relations with Putin are increasingly strained, say reports, but Prigozhin continues to taunt the Kremlin president and his army top brass as his Wagner mercenaries and Ukrainian forces remain locked in battle over the city of Bakhmut.

In further embarrassment to Russia’s military, Britain’s Ministry of Defence reported that another top Russian generals – General Colonel Mikhail Teplinsky – had been dismissed as one of Moscow’s key commanders of forces in Ukraine.

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Wagner warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin has risked further angering Vladimir Putin by dismissing Moscow's generals as 'a bunch of clowns' while boasting his mercenary army is superior to the Russian Armed Forces. Pictured: Prigozhin is seen in footage speaking to Wagner fighters

Wagner warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin has risked further angering Vladimir Putin by dismissing Moscow’s generals as ‘a bunch of clowns’ while boasting his mercenary army is superior to the Russian Armed Forces. Pictured: Prigozhin is seen in footage speaking to Wagner fighters

Ambitious henchman Yevgeny Prigozhin - who runs the 50,000-strong Wagner private army - is increasingly seen as posing a rising threat to Russian president Vladimir Putin with his daily grandstanding and outspoken boasts. Pictured: Prigozhin (left) and Putin together in 2010

Ambitious henchman Yevgeny Prigozhin – who runs the 50,000-strong Wagner private army – is increasingly seen as posing a rising threat to Russian president Vladimir Putin with his daily grandstanding and outspoken boasts. Pictured: Prigozhin (left) and Putin together in 2010

‘Teplinsky was the officer on the ground in charge of Russia’s relatively successful withdrawal from west of the Dnipro in November 2022, and he has received praise in Russia as a capable and pragmatic commander,’ the MoD’s update said.

It was unclear whether the general remains as the head of Russia’s airborne forces (VDV) as well, with the MoD suggesting that ‘debate over the tasks VDV has been given has contributed to his dismissal.

‘Teplinsky’s dismissal is likely another symptom of continued divisions within the senior hierarchy of Russia’s operation as General Valery Gerasimov attempts to impose his personal authority on the campaign.’ 

The MoD added: ‘The Russian force continues to endure operational deadlock and heavy casualties; Gerasimov’s prioritisation of largely minor regulations is likely to confirm the fears of his many sceptics in Russia.’

Meanwhile, in Prigozhin’s most recent reproach against Moscow, the Wagner boss claimed his ragbag fighters, who are mostly convicts plucked from prison and put into uniforms, have achieved heroics greater than Soviet soldiers at the Battle of Stalingrad, a key military turning point in the Second World War. 

He has also openly mocked General Valery Gerasimov – the Russian commander-in-chief – who ordered that Russian soldiers should shave off their beards as part of a discipline drive in the armed forces.

Russia’s defence chiefs were ‘a bunch of clowns’ seeking the ‘glamorisation of the army’, raged Prigozhin, a Soviet-era jail inmate who came to fame arranging banquets and managing online troll factories for Putin.

‘Female war correspondents go into the absolute heat of [war],’ said Prigozhin.

‘Jail inmates fight better than units of the Guards. Servicemen with broken spines pass on their military experience at training camps, moving around like robots.

‘And a bunch of clowns try to teach fighters exhausted with hard military labour how many times they ought to shave — and what kind of perfume they must use to greet high commanders.’

He hit out: ‘I believe we must introduce legal restrictions, and the harshest punishment with a jail term of up to 50 years for the glamorisation of the army.’

Pictured: Scenes of destruction are seen in video footage from Soledar, which Wagner claimed this month to have captured without the help of Russia's military

Pictured: Scenes of destruction are seen in video footage from Soledar, which Wagner claimed this month to have captured without the help of Russia's military

Pictured: Scenes of destruction are seen in video footage from Soledar, which Wagner claimed this month to have captured without the help of Russia’s military

Prigozhin likened the fighting in Soledar to the battle of Stalingrad lasted from 23 August 1942 to 2 February 1943, resulting in millions of deaths. Russia's victory was a key blow to Hitler

Prigozhin likened the fighting in Soledar to the battle of Stalingrad lasted from 23 August 1942 to 2 February 1943, resulting in millions of deaths. Russia’s victory was a key blow to Hitler

He backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a Russian colonel-general, who has also sent thousands of fighters to Ukraine – many of them Muslim, like him, with beards.

Kadyrov said: ‘I can only imagine the sense of astonishment among our fighters, who didn’t know about such a dangerous enemy in their ranks as facial hair.

‘Drop your machine guns, let’s go and shave. The Nazis can just wait a while discussing their fascist business (a reference to the Kremlin’s repeated false claims that Ukraine is run by a Nazi government).

‘As if there are no problems at the front. What kind of stupid thing is this?’

It amounted to ‘a provocation meant to stifle the morale of [Russian] fighters’.

He blamed loyalist MP and Gerasimov ally Lt General Viktor Sobolev over the blunder after he suggested shaving was ‘an elementary requirement of military discipline’.

Progozhin said: ‘I take this opportunity to ask you, Ramzan, to grow your beard twice as long, for yourself and for me.’

Prigozhin also doubled down on his boast that his Wagner force – which includes murderers, rapists, robbers and fraudsters – had taken the town Soledar from Ukraine without the help of Russia’s conventional forces, dressing up the achievement as superior to the epic history book Red Army success in Stalingrad, now Volgograd.

Earlier this month, Prigozhin bragged that his fighters had single-handedly taken control of the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar, which has been razed by fighting. 

He declared Wagner was probably ‘the most experienced army in the world today.’ 

Prigozhin openly mocked General Valery Gerasimov - the Russian commander-in-chief - who ordered that Russian soldiers should shave off their beards as part of a discipline drive in the armed forces. Russia's defence chiefs were 'a bunch of clowns' seeking the 'glamorisation of the army', raged Prigozhin, who backed Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov. Kadyrov and his fighters are Muslim, and have beards

Prigozhin openly mocked General Valery Gerasimov – the Russian commander-in-chief – who ordered that Russian soldiers should shave off their beards as part of a discipline drive in the armed forces. Russia’s defence chiefs were ‘a bunch of clowns’ seeking the ‘glamorisation of the army’, raged Prigozhin, who backed Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov. Kadyrov and his fighters are Muslim, and have beards

Pictured: A man wearing a camouflage uniform walks out of PMC Wagner Centre, which is a project implemented by the businessman and founder of the Wagner private military group Yevgeny Prigozhin, during the official opening of the office block in Saint Petersburg, Nov. 4

Pictured: A man wearing a camouflage uniform walks out of PMC Wagner Centre, which is a project implemented by the businessman and founder of the Wagner private military group Yevgeny Prigozhin, during the official opening of the office block in Saint Petersburg, Nov. 4

His rant came as he addressed convicts who had served six months in the war zone, who he pardoned from their convictions under a secret decree from Putin.

‘I have come to say thank you for what you have done, from myself….and from the motherland…,’ said Prigozhin. ‘You have gone through six months of hard warfare.

‘Neither your grandfathers, nor great-grandfathers, were involved in such battles [in World War Two]. Those who were at Soledar know that even Stalingrad pales in comparison, so thank you. The Motherland and our people are in debt to you.’

He urged the newly liberated criminals to forget their past lives but also the barbarism of war as they return to civilian life.

They should keep their ‘adrenaline inside’ and forget what they had learned at the front. In civilian life ‘there are no enemies, everyone’s a friend’.

After facing online mockery for his Stalingrad comparison, he posted videos which he said showed similar devastation.

The Battle of Stalingrad lasted from 23 August 1942 to 2 February 1943, resulting in millions of deaths. Russia’s victory was a key blow to Hitler.

‘I treat the history of our ancestors with respect, but here are videos I made from a car window when approaching Soledar,’ said Prigozhin, who is nicknamed Putin’s ‘chef’, even though his blind loyalty is now questioned.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said this week that Prigozhin’s ‘advertising’ of the ‘superiority and successes of his own troops’ had become ‘overbearing and ostentatiously swaggering’ and was grating with Putin.


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