The statement about the alleged departure of the “Wagner” PMC from Bakhmut shows the growing conflict between Shoigu and Prigozhin.
In March 2023, the National Resistance Center explained why Prigozhin started an information campaign of the “Wagner” retreat from Bakhmut. Traditionally, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, led by Shoigu, has been accused of this. Prigozhin’s statement of May 5 indicates that a new stage has arrived in the conflict between the military and political elites of the Russian Federation.
Shoigu and the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Gerasimov view “Wagner” as cannon fodder. At the same time, Shoigu’s position on not supplying ammunition to the “Wagner” is primarily related to a personal conflict with Prigozhin in the struggle for influence in the Kremlin. But the problems of “Wagner” are not only in ammunition. Prigozhin has not been able to replenish the ranks of the PMK with new militants for several months. The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation systematically exhausted “Wagner” in order to significantly reduce the potential of the PMC which leads to the weakening of the influence of Prigozhin himself.
Putin considers the growth of individual military formations as a potential threat to the regime and uses various methods to contain it. This is both a balancing act between the military elites and a careful limitation of resources between the specific formations.
Read more about this in the article: Putin balances between power clans to prevent a coup.
Currently, there is no reason to state that Prigozhin is withdrawing his forces from Bakhmut. His units continue to attack the positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and do everything to try to take the city by May 9. Therefore, the statement can carry a double mission: a media attack on the Shoigu, as well as an attempt to disorient the Defense Forces of Ukraine.
But the fact that his resource is running out is a big problem for Putin’s cook. Therefore, he decided to go the media way in order to shake up the situation in society and increase the level of distrust to the Shoigu.
Such steps can be dangerous for Prigozhin himself who very well understands that he is currently being saved by his media presence.