Wagner mercenaries capture Russian commander as troops on brink of civil war

Wagner captures and interrogates Russian commander

A Russian commander has been captured by the Wagner group as the mercenary’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, ramps up his feud with the regular army. To raise tensions further a video of the officer, Lieutenant Colonel Roman Venetivin, has been posted on Prigozhin’s social media channels.

In the clip Venevitin, the commander of Russia’s 72nd Brigade, tells an interrogator that when he was drunk he had ordered his troops to fire on a Wagner convoy.

Seemingly never knowing quite where to look and alternating between looking at the camera and the ground, Venevitin said he gave the order because of his “personal dislike” for Wagner and then apologised.

The capture of the commander comes a week after Prigozhin accused the Russian army of attempting to blow up his men as they were pulling back from Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

And he also stated that his men had discovered explosives. He said they were planted on purpose by defence ministry officials.

The Russian Ministry of Defence has not yet commented on the footage.

The Guardian reports that two close family members of Venevitin confirmed to the newspaper that the man filmed in the video was their relative.

Last week Prigozhin announced that the Wagner group had largely pulled back from Bakhmut, most of which they captured last month because his troops had taken heavy casualties.

It is believed that the city is now controlled by the regular Russian forces.

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The latest incident comes amid an increase in fighting along the frontlines in the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions.

And some nationalist pro-war commentators said Wagner’s arrest of Venevitin shows that Prigozhin’s influence within the Kremlin is growing.

Writing on his Telegram channel, Igor Strelkov, a retired Russian special operations officer, and military blogger, said: “Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose subordinates posted a video in which they mock a senior officer and an entire brigade commander … is allowed to do whatever he wants. He is considered as the highest caste!”

Prigozhin’s influence has grown thanks to his troops gradually capturing Bakhmut in recent months.

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This delivered some good news for Moscow as it was the first tangible military victory since last summer.

Prigozhin has been a critical power player since the start of the war and has used his social media accounts to blast the defence ministry.

But his influence has not been embraced by everyone, with some elements of the Russian elite angry at what he is allowed to get away with.

Last week, two close allies of the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, described him as a “hysterical blogger” and said he undermined Russia’s war effort.

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