Head of the Russian Wagner paramilitary group Yevgeny Prigozhin has said that he intends to run for president of Ukraine in 2024.
“I’m making a political coming out. Looking at everything around me, I’ve got political ambitions. I decided to run for president in 2024. For President of Ukraine,” Prigozhin said in a video, posted on Telegram on Saturday.
Prigozhin said he expects to compete for this post with former President Petro Poroshenko and incumbent Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“If I win the presidential elections of Ukraine, then everything will be fine, guys, the shells will not be needed,” he said.
Asked why he complains about poor supplies of ammunition from the Russian defence industry and does not buy it himself, Prigozhin said if he buys everything with his own money, it will be “state management, not business.”
According to him, the Wagner group needs some 10,000 tonnes of ammunition, worth approximately $1 billion, every month.
On human losses, Prigozhin said “fighters die at war in any case, the war is so invented that one army kills another.”
He refuted allegations that he is in cahoots with the Ukrainian authorities and “for money and lifting of sanction” will leave the battle zone “at the right moment.”
“I am not going anywhere. The question is — who took the money when we ‘made a gesture of goodwill’ and surrendered Kherson, Kharkiv region and many other [territories]?” he questioned, hinting at the Russian military chiefs.
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‘New fighters coming’
In a separate statement, Prigozhin announced that Wagner recruitment centres have opened in 42 Russian cities.
“There are new fighters coming there who will go side by side with us to defend their country and their family. To make our common future and protect the memory of the past. Despite the colossal resistance of Ukraine’s armed forces, we will go forward. Despite the sticks in the wheels that are stuck in ours at every move, we will overcome this together,” Prigozhin said.
Prigozhin is at odds with the Russian military chiefs, including Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu and head of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
The head of the Wagner group many times publicly doubted the competence of the Russian Defence Ministry and its top officials, voiced his suspicions of the ministry’s “jealousy” for Wagner’s “successes,” and in connection with that — of intentionally causing obstacles to the group, including cutting supplies of ammunition.