Yevgeny Prigozhin, owner of the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC), has confirmed the authenticity of a video in which soldiers wearing Wagner patches address the head of Russia’s General Staff Valery Gerasimov, demanding to send them more ammunition. In the video, the men criticize Gerasimov using obscene language:
“To the Chief of the General Staff: you're a f***ot and a f*cking *sshole. We have nothing to fight with, we have no shells. There are guys out there dying for us, and we're sitting here not f*cking helping. We need shells, we want to f*ck everybody up. We're fighting against the entire Ukrainian army here at Bakhmut. Where are you? Help us, dammit. There's nothing else to f*cking call you. Except one word – f*ggot. When guys are dying, where are you all?” – say the men in the video.
The video went viral on December 26. One of the men in the video wore a PMC Wagner patch, but there was no other confirmation that the video actually depicted Prigozhin's mercenaries. Prigozhin personally confirmed the authenticity of the video on December 27, publishing a voice message in response to a journalistic query, along with a clip in which he greeted the mercenaries and questioned them about their living conditions. In the request, journalists asked whether the men really belonged to the Wagner PMC or whether they were “Ukrainian nationalists” in disguise.
“I stopped by the guys in the dugouts specifically to answer your question. Are there any Ukrainian nationalists here now? I haven't seen any. Our main task, and theirs too, which they keep mentioning, is to go and take Bakhmut. And I think that the capture of Bakhmut is not too far off. And as for the problems that, unfortunately, arise at every step [of the way] – I hope that we’ll solve them. We’ll solve them and we’ll force [the command] to solve them. There are no nationalists in that much-debated video.
And separately, the guys asked me to tell you that when you sit in a warm office, you can't hear the problems coming from the front line. And when you pull out the bodies of your comrades every day and see them for the last time, you really need ammunition. I wish everyone would get moving and at least think about what it's like for them there on the front line.”
Russian outlet Voyennoye Obozreniye (“Military Observer”) had previously reported that the video was a provocation by “Ukrainian nationalists.” The report claimed that the appeal to Gerasimov was recorded by “two AFU fighters, dressed in camouflage with PMC Wagner insignia.
Prigozhin has long had conflicts with the Russian Ministry of Defense; Colonel General Lapin, who commanded the Central Military District, suffered the most on his behalf. Prigozhin expressed support for Ramzan Kadyrov, who openly called Lapin responsible for the loss of Lyman, as well as for the Russian army’s other failures. The topic of “warm offices” was repeatedly raised by both Prigozhin and Kadyrov – the two claim that Russia’s command is ineffectively occupying Ukraine, is itself far from the front lines, and makes decisions that result in the deaths of many Russian soldiers. After long and systematic criticism from Prigozhin and Kadyrov, Lapin was removed from his post, according to reports by Russian propagandists on October 29.
Lapin was best known for awarding his own son, who commanded a tank regiment that suffered serious losses during an attack on Chernihiv and Sumy. It was also alleged that Lapin had put a pistol to the heads of mobilized soldiers for retreating from Svatove, calling them “vermin” and threatening to shoot them.