The leader of Russia’s private military company known as the Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, sparked controversy when he expressed that a resolution to the conflict in Ukraine would be an “optimal outcome.” Prigozhin’s statement was recently revealed in a blog post published on Friday.
“The ideal option would be to announce the end of the special military operation and declare that Russia has achieved all of its planned goals — and, in some respects, we really have achieved them,” Prigozhin wrote in comments that were picked up by Ukrainian media.
The text by the 61-year-old also said, “For state power and for society today, it is necessary to put a thick full stop behind the special military operation,” referring to Russia’s labeling of its invasion of and ongoing war in Ukraine.
‘Dig in’ for counteroffensive
“For Russia, there is always a risk that the situation on the front can deteriorate after the start of the counteroffensive,” Prigozhin said, adding that the only option at the moment is to “dig in.”
This would fall short of the Kremlin’s current aims, which include the complete conquest of the four Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson.
But during the 3,329-word blog post, he spoke out against any negotiations that would mean the ceding of Russian-occupied territories back to Ukraine and toward the end appeared to backtrack on his earlier remarks.
“Russia cannot accept any agreement, only a fair fight … And the sooner it starts, the better,” the Wagner chief said.
“The best scenario for healing Russia so that it rallies together and becomes the strongest state is the offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, in which no handouts and negotiations will be possible,” Prigozhin said.
The Wagner Group is a Kremlin-backed private military company led by Prigozhin, who is contributing to Russia’s military operations in Ukraine.
Wagner troops are currently fighting mainly for the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut in a monthslong war of attrition that has killed more than 62,000 soldiers on both sides, according to estimates.
The mercenary group now claims control of most of the town, though Ukraine has repeatedly disputed claims its forces have almost been pushed out.
Orthodox Easter prisoner swap
In a separate development Sunday, Wagner returned at least 100 Ukrainian prisoners of war back to Ukrainian forces to mark Orthodox Easter, according to a video posted by Prigozhin.
“Prepare all of them, feed and water them, check the wounded,” the Wagner chief was shown saying in a video posted on Telegram by his press service.
A group of Ukrainian prisoners was then shown being told that they would be passed back to Ukrainian forces to mark Orthodox Easter.
“I hope you don’t fall back into our hands,” an armed Wagner soldier was told telling the men before they were ordered into a truck, some loading packs of water bottles.
More than 100 men, some limping and some being carried on stretchers by their comrades, were shown making their way in line along a muddy road.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said 130 Ukrainian prisoners of war have been released and returned home in a “great Easter exchange”.
It was not clear how many Russians were sent back the other way.