The boss of the Wagner group claims he bombed Bakhmut and challenges Zelensky to a sky duel

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Russian mercenary organization Wagner Group, has challenged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to an aerial duel over Bakhmut.

A video posted online on Monday allegedly shows Prigozhin in the cockpit of a bomber jet and claims he has just personally completed a mission to bomb Bakhmut – a focal point of the war for months as Russian forces, including mercenaries from the Wagner Group, attempt to capture the East to conquer Ukrainian city. Prigozhin then challenges Zelensky to “meet in heaven” for a duel the next day, with the victor taking control of Bakhmut.

“Volodymyr Oleksandrovych (Zelensky), we have landed,” says Prigozhin in the Video, according to Reuters. “We bombed Bakhmut. Tomorrow I will fly a MiG-29. If you like, we’ll meet in heaven. If you win, take Artyomovsk (Bakhmut). If not, we advance to (the river) Dnipro. “

news week has reached out to the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington, DC for comment.

Wagner group Yevgeny Prigozhin Volodymyr Zelensky duel
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, is shown in Lviv, Ukraine, January 11, 2023, while Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, right, is pictured in Saint Petersburg, Russia, June 17, 2016. Prigozhin challenged Zelenskyy to a fighter jet duel for control of Bakhmut on Monday.
Stanislav Ivanov/Global Images Ukraine; Mikhail Svetlov

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a US-based think tank, cited the video in a report Monday, which claimed that Prigozhin’s “appeal in the Russian nationalist information space” may be “waning as he continues to peak.” overcompensated by Wagner’s attack on Bakhmut.”

The ISW report said Russian military nationalist bloggers recently concluded that “Prigozhin’s blatant tactics may indicate that the unaffiliated nationalist information space may be awakening to Prigozhin’s efforts to use the war in Ukraine for personal gain.” “

The bloggers said Prigozhin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, may lose popularity despite previously gaining significant political influence through “his trolling skills.” However, Wagner-affiliated bloggers reportedly continue to “celebrate Prigozhin.”

Earlier Monday, members of Ukraine’s parliament passed a resolution to officially declare the Wagner group an international “criminal organization.” The group, founded by Prigozhin in 2014, has also conducted mercenary operations to support Russian interests in countries including Syria, Libya, Sudan, the Central African Republic and Mali.

“The purpose of the adoption of the resolution is to strengthen the efforts of Ukraine and the international community for the just restoration of peace, ensuring international legal order in the world and in Ukraine, and the inevitable punishment of all persons who commit violations guilty of international humanitarian law,” the Ukrainian resolution reads.

While Prigozhin and Putin are considered close allies, there are some signs that the mercenary leader’s relationship with the Kremlin is becoming strained. The Russian military has recently assumed a larger role in the mission to capture Bakhmut, with Wagner Group personnel being gradually replaced.

This month, an ISW ​​report claimed Wagner was slowing its efforts to recruit prisoners to fight in Ukraine while Russia’s Defense Ministry plans to “marginalize the Wagner group in future offensive operations.” The boss of the Wagner group claims he bombed Bakhmut and challenges Zelensky to a sky duel

Rick Schindler

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