On May 24, pro-Kremlin political strategist Konstantin Dolgov released an extensive interview with Wagner paramilitary cartel head Evgeny Prigozhin in which the tycoon, in Dolgov’s words, answered “all the tough questions.” Over the course of the 77-minute conversation, Prigozhin criticizes the Russian Defense Ministry, describes his relationship to Russia’s elites, and gives his prediction for what the future of the war will hold. Meduza has translated some of the most notable quotes from the interview.
On the status and goals of Russia’s war in Ukraine
We came in boorishly, trampling all over Ukraine’s territory in search of Nazis. And while we searched for Nazis, we fucked up everyone we could. We came up to Kyiv and — I’ll put it in plain Russian — shat the bed and retreated. Then on to Kherson — we shat the bed and retreated. And somehow things aren’t working out for us.
The special military operation was done for the purpose of “denazification,” while we’ve made Ukraine into a nation that’s known throughout the world. They’re like the Greeks or the Romans at their peaks. And as far as “demilitarization,” if they had some 500 tanks at the start of the special military operation, now they have 5,000. If they had 20,000 capable fighters before, now they have 400,000. What kind of demilitarization is that? Now it looks more like we did the opposite, somehow or other, and militarized Ukraine.
On Ukraine’s army
Wagner Group is currently the best army in the world. Of course, out of propriety, I have to say that the next best one is the Russian army, but I think the Ukrainians today are one of the strongest armies. They’re highly organized and highly trained, they have good intelligence, and they have a diverse arsenal. They work equally well on any systems, whether Soviet ones or NATO ones. They’re doing it all for the sake of a higher purpose, like us in the Great Patriotic War.
On the children of Russian elites
[Russian Defense Ministry Sergey] Shoigu’s son-in-law walks around, shaking his ass, while his daughter is opening the Kronstadt forts. Did you make money from these forts? Are you spending your money on these forts? Spend your fucking money on ammunition. When the defense minister parades around his daughter and some dipshit who’s a blogger and makes a stink about how he doesn’t like the special military operation… We’re not the ones who came up with this special military operation. But we followed the orders and said that if the village has gotten into a mess, if we go to beat up our neighbors, we need to finish what we start. But it turns out that the real men are fighting while some people just like to mess around.
In the best of cases, the children of the elite shut their traps, but some of them are allowing themselves to lead public, luxurious, carefree lives. It’s important to remember the elites aren’t the only ones with kids. And while the kids of the elite are smearing creams on themselves and showing it on the Internet, ordinary people’s kids are coming home in zinc, blown to bits, and mothers are crying over their sons.
This split could end, like in 1917, with a revolution, when first the soldiers rise up, and then their loved ones follow. And it’s pointless to say there are hundreds of them; there are now tens of thousands of relatives of dead soldiers. There will almost certainly be hundreds of thousands. There’s no escaping that. And it’s all going to end with a St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in a single moment. The opulent lives of the children of the elites will end with people raising them on pitchforks. My recommendation to the Russian elite is to send your fucking boys to the war, and when you go to their funerals, when you start to bury them, that’s when people will say that things are fair.
On Wagner Group
If the system’s built on kissing ass, Wagner Group’s not going to do that. The main problem is Shoigu and Gerasimov. It was the decisions of those two that blocked us from getting everything, despite the president saying that the ammunition was there.
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If [former Deputy Defense Minister Mikhail] Mizintsev becomes defense minister today, and [former overall commander of Russia’s forces in Ukraine Sergey] Surovikin becomes the head of the General Staff, that would be a fine structure.
Here’s my political credo: I love the motherland, I listen to Putin, Shoigu should be fired, and we’ll keep on fighting.
On the future of the war
There’s an optimistic scenario and a pessimistic one. I have little faith in the first one. [It looks like this]: Europe and America get tired of the Ukrainian conflict. China sits everyone down at the negotiating table. We agree that everything we’ve already snatched is ours and everything we haven’t snatched isn’t ours. The odds of this are slim.
Here’s the pessimistic scenario: the Ukrainians are given missiles, they train their troops, they no doubt continue their offensive, and they try to counterattack. It’s possible that this counteroffensive is successful in some places and they restore the borders to where they were in 2014 — that could easily happen. They’ll attack Crimea, they’ll try to blow up the Crimean Bridge, they’ll cut off our supply routes. So we need to be ready for a difficult war.
On how not to ‘piss away Russia’
We’re currently in a state where there’s a danger of just pissing away Russia. So we should declare martial law, we should declare new waves of mobilization, and we need to transfer everybody we can to work on ammunition production. We need to cut the fat, stop building new roads and new infrastructure, and work only on the war.
Russia needs to take a page out of North Korea’s book for a certain number of years: close all our borders, stop pulling punches, bring back all our boys from abroad, and work hard. Then we’ll see some kind of result.
On the odds of a nuclear conflict
We started this fight. There were neighbors and they got into a fight. You go to your neighbor’s house and you can punch him in the face or you can break his dishes. But if your neighbor tells you to fuck off and you take an axe and smash his head in, that’s an odder situation. A nuclear bomb is like that axe. You shouldn’t run after your neighbor with an axe. Better to do it honestly: either beat him or admit that he beat you. The place to prove you’re right is on the battlefield.