Putin humiliated by Russian mercenary chief as he slams Kremlin generals as 'a bunch of clowns'
The Russian warlord is often seen as a close confidant to Putin, but in recent times, relations have strained
Moscow’s generals have been dubbed a “bunch of clowns” in a withering putdown by oligarch henchman Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Mr Prigozhin runs the Wagner private army which is estimated to be around 50,000 strong, and is seen as a potentially significant threat to the Kremlin leader.
In a dig aimed at Moscow, the Wagner leader claimed his fighters, comprised mainly of convicts in uniforms, have achieved greater heroics during the Ukraine war than Soviet soldiers at the Battle of Stalingrad.
The Russian commander-in-chief, General Valery Gerasimov, also came in for criticism, after he ordered Russian soldiers to shave off their beards as part of a discipline drive.
Prigozhin described defence chiefs as a “bunch of clowns” who seek “glamorisation of the army”.
“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.
“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.”
The warlord has become a thorn in the side of Putin as a result of his frequent rants about the state of the Russian Armed Forces.
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He believes his mercenary army is stronger than those at Putin’s disposal, and his relations with the Russian president continue to strain, according to reports.
Despite the risk of frustrating Putin further, Prigozhin continues to taunt the Kremlin leader as his mercenaries battle in the city of Bakhmut with Ukrainian forces.
The Wagner force, comprised of murderers, rapists, robbers and fraudsters, claims it has taken the town Soledar from Ukraine without the assistance of Russia’s conventional forces.
The achievement has been played up but the oligarch, who has compared it to the Red Army’s success in Stalingrad, now Volgograd, which occurred in 1942-1943.
Russia’s military has been further embarrassed as the British Ministry of Defence reported that General Colonel Mikhail Teplinsky, another top Russian general, has been dismissed as one of Moscow’s key commanders in Ukraine.
An update from the MoD said: “Teplinsky was the officer on the ground in charge of Russia’s relatively successful withdrawal from the west of Dnipro in November 2022, and he has received praise in Russia as a capable and pragmatic commander.”
It was unclear whether Teplinsky maintained his role as the head of Russia’s airborne forces (VDV), with the MoD suggesting there is some confusion over the position.
They said there is a “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.”
Reports of disarray in the Russian military has served as a confidence boost to Prigozhin, who continues to heap praise on his gang of misfits.
The founder of the Wagner mercenaries, emboldened by their perceived achievements in Ukraine, is now seeking to ban negative press reports about his men.
Prigozhin made the request in a letter sent to Vycheslav Volodin, the hawkish chairman of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament. Prigozhin's press service published the letter on Tuesday.
In his letter, he accused "certain media, bloggers and Telegram channels" of discrediting some of his men, including convicts he has recruited into Wagner's ranks, by presenting them as "bad guys and criminals".
That was a reference to the fact that the sometimes grisly and murderous past of some convicts recruited by Wagner has been publicised. The men took up his offer to fight in Ukraine for six months as they were promised a pardon if they survived, even if they had originally been jailed for life.
Prigozhin asked parliament to criminalise any actions or publications that discredited such individuals and to outlaw public disclosure of their criminal past.
"In essence, the people who are on the most dangerous parts of the frontline and who are risking their lives every day and dying for the Motherland are being portrayed as second-class people, stripping them of the right to atone for their guilt before society and consciously playing down their achievements," Prigozhin wrote in the letter.
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