The leader of the Wagner mercenary group offered to reveal the location of Russian troops to Ukraine in exchange for a withdrawal of Kyiv’s forces from the besieged city of Bakhmut, according to a purportedly leaked top-secret document.
Yevgeny Prigozhin approached Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate on a number of occasions with the proposal as it appeared his forces would fail to capture the Donetsk region town, the Washington Post reported.
Kyiv spurned the offer because its officials did not trust Prigozhin, a known ally of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and thought his offer could have been disingenuous.
Details of the approach were revealed in an assessment from a major leak of classified US material via the Discord social media platform.
A heavy price
The US intelligence highlighted several encounters between Prigozhin and Ukrainian intelligence officers, including meetings in Africa, where Wagner provides security for a number of governments.
The Wagner leader reportedly voiced concerns over the heavy price his mercenaries had paid spearheading Russia’s push to capture Bakhmut, the bloodiest and single-longest battle since the war broke out.
According to one document, Prigozhin told Ukrainian officers that the Russian military was struggling with ammunition supplies and urged Kyiv to hit Moscow’s forces harder.
He also advised Kyiv to launch an offensive towards the border of Crimea, which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014, while Russian troop morale was low.
Moscow blamed for slow progress of mercenary forces
The purportedly leaked intelligence emerged at the same time Prigozhin was engaged in a public spat with the Russian defence ministry over a perceived lack of support for his mercenary forces in Bakhmut.
The businessman, known as “Putin’s chef” because of his lucrative catering contracts with the Kremlin, has repeatedly blamed Moscow for the slow progress of his forces because of a lack of supplies, including artillery shells and armoured vehicles.
Prigozhin, who had promised to capture Bakhmut by May 9 in time for Russia’s Victory Day celebrations, has recently threatened to pull his troops out if he isn’t offered more assistance.
A lack of communication between Wagner and Russia’s conventional military forces in Bakhmut last week reportedly allowed Ukraine to break through Moscow’s defensive lines on the south-west outskirts of the city.
Source : Telegraph