Prigozhin wanted to merge Russian military positions to Ukraine in exchange for the retreat of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from Bakhmut - ForumDaily
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Prigozhin wanted to leak Russian military positions to Ukraine in exchange for the retreat of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from Bakhmut

Due to the leak of American secret data, it became known that in late January, the owner of the Wagner militant group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, made an extraordinary offer to Ukraine. He wanted to reveal the positions of Russian troops in exchange for the retreat of Ukrainian forces from Bakhmut, reports Washington Post.

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Prigozhin said that if the Ukrainian command withdraws its soldiers from the area around Bakhmut, he will pass on information to Kyiv about the positions of Russian troops that Ukraine can use to attack. Prigozhin relayed the offer to his contacts at the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Agency, with whom he maintained secret communications during the war, according to US intelligence documents leaked to the Discord group chat platform.

The Wagner Group is an unofficial armed group often referred to in the media as a Russian private military company (“Wagner PMC”, “Wagner PMC”). It is alleged that since 2014, the group operated in Ukraine, and then in Syria.

Prigozhin has publicly feuded with Russian military leaders, who, he vehemently claims, have failed to arm and resupply his forces, which provided vital support to Moscow's war effort. But he is also an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who may well see Prigozhin's offer to trade the lives of Wagner fighters for Russian soldiers as a betrayal.

The leaked document does not specify which positions of the Russian troops Prigozhin proposed to reveal.

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Two Ukrainian officials confirmed that Prigozhin spoke several times with the Ukrainian intelligence agency, known as the GUR. One of the officials said that Prigozhin repeatedly made an offer regarding Bakhmut, but Kyiv rejected it because officials do not trust Prigozhin and consider his proposals a hoax.

The US official also warned that there were similar doubts in Washington about Prigozhin's intentions.

In an interview with The Washington Post this month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not confirm contact with Prigozhin. “This is a matter of military intelligence,” he said. The Ukrainian leader also objected to the public disclosure of classified information and said that he believed the leaks benefited Russia.

Struggle for power

Prigozhin has complained publicly and privately that the Russian Defense Ministry has not provided his fighters with the ammunition and other resources they need to succeed. Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine witnessed some of the bloodiest fighting of the war. Over the past few months, Ukrainian and Russian forces have suffered heavy losses in the confrontation in the urban areas of the city.

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Prigozhin, who has promised to take control of the city by May 9, in time for Victory Day in Russia, recently publicly threatened to withdraw his troops from Bakhmut.

Other leaked documents show Russian Defense Ministry officials privately wondering how to respond to Prigozhin's criticism of the military's performance and his demands for more resources. The documents also speak of a power struggle between Prigozhin and top officials, including Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Double game

Against this tense backdrop, Prigozhin maintained secret relationships with Ukrainian intelligence that, in addition to phone calls, included face-to-face meetings with GUR officers in an unspecified African country, according to one document. Wagner forces provide security for several governments on the continent.

Leaked U.S. intelligence documents show Prigozhin lamenting the heavy losses the fighting has inflicted on his own forces and urging Ukraine to hit harder on Russian forces.

According to one document, Prigozhin told a Ukrainian intelligence officer that the Russian military was having difficulty supplying ammunition. He advised Ukrainian troops to move forward and storm the border with Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed. He also spoke about the low morale of Russian soldiers. The report also cited other intelligence that noted that Prigozhin was aware of the plummeting morale among Wagner's forces and that some of his fighters refused orders to deploy to the Bakhmut area under heavy fire, fearing more casualties.

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In wartime, it is not uncommon for opposing sides to maintain some form of communication. In an interview, a Ukrainian official described contacts in the spirit of "keeping friends close and enemies even closer."

The documents also suggest that Kyiv suspects or may know that the Kremlin is aware of Prigozhin's connections to Ukrainian intelligence and his secret negotiations over Bakhmut.

One document, based on "classified" or intercepted communications, states that Ukraine's military intelligence chief Kirill Budanov "expected the Russians to take advantage of the details of Prigozhin's secret talks with the GUR and his meetings with their officers in Africa to give the impression that he might to be a Ukrainian agent." It does not specify whether Budanov suspects that Moscow may already know that Prigozhin is talking to GUR officers.

Prigogine's reaction

Upon learning that American intelligence documents revealed Prigozhin's connection to Ukrainian intelligence, the mercenary commander appeared to take the situation lightly.

“Yes, of course, I can confirm this information, we have nothing to hide from foreign intelligence agencies. Budanov and I are still in Africa,” Prigogine wrote on May 14 in his Telegram channel.

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