Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin has shared an image of dozens of fighters who have been killed, blaming the Russian Ministry of Defence of deliberately depriving them of ammunition.
Mr Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner private military company which is fighting on Moscow’s behalf in Ukraine, has repeatedly blamed the ministry for “shell hunger”, calling it a treasonous attempt to destroy the company.
The ministry said such allegations were “completely untrue” in a statement on Tuesday, complaining – without mentioning Mr Prigozhin by name – about attempts to create divisions that worked “solely to the benefit of the enemy”.
Despite this, on Wednesday, Mr Prigozhin doubled down on his allegations, releasing a picture of dozens of dead soldiers laying on the icy ground in eastern Ukraine, where Wagner is battling to try to take the small Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
“This is one of the places where the bodies of those who have died are gathered,” he told a prominent Russian military blogger in an interview.
He said that there should be five times less dead, and that the mothers, wives and children of the individuals will get the bodies of their relatives back.
“Who is guilty that they died? The guilty ones are those who should have resolved the question of us getting enough ammo,” he added.
Taking the dispute one step further, Mr Prigozhin released an official statement sent by Wagner to the defence ministry requesting ammunition.
It contained detailed tallies of shells used, requested and received – though he said he had blanked out sensitive data such as the names of the shells.
“No steps to give us ammo have been taken,” he said, accusing Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu – a close ally of President Vladimir Putin – and Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff, of withholding their signatures from shell approval forms.
In an attempt to secure the shells, Mr Prigozhin said he had launched a social media campaign and that Wagner had been reduced to begging military warehouses for ammunition, which he added was sometimes successful.