Wagner boss 'secretly offered to help Ukraine attack Russian army if they let his notorious mercenaries capture Bakhmut'

15 May 2023, 10:21 | Updated: 15 May 2023, 10:33

Prigozhin wanted to capture Bakhmut from Ukraine, where Kyiv's forces are counter attacking
Prigozhin wanted to capture Bakhmut from Ukraine, where Kyiv's forces are counter attacking. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

The head of the notorious Wagner mercenary group secretly offered to give Ukraine information that would let them bombard the Russian army if they withdrew from parts of Bakhmut, leaked documents show.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Previously unreported US intelligence that was leaked to Discord shows that Yevgeny Prigozhin has kept secret communications with Kyiv throughout the war.

The businessman, once so close to the Kremlin he was called "Putin's chef" but now a frequent critic of Russian failures in the war, threw thousands of his mercenaries into the meat grinder in Bakhmut.

He appeared determined to have his private soldiers, many of whom were convicted criminals recruited out of jail, capture the eastern city so he could claim it as a personal victory and shame the regular Russian military.

Read more: UK pledges hundreds of new attack drones ahead of Volodymyr Zelenskyy's surprise visit

Prigozhin has repeatedly criticised the Kremlin in videos
Prigozhin has repeatedly criticised the Kremlin in videos. Picture: Alamy

He has frequently lashed out at Russian commanders in his videos, and tried to publicly embarrass the Kremlin into supplying him with more ammunition so he could take Bakhmut.

There are questions over whether he is building influence to eventually take on Putin in the next presidential election.

The leaks do not say which Russian positions he was willing to give up.

He has criticised other Russian units during the siege of Bakhmut, where Ukraine has launched a counter-attack that threatens to undo months of small gains taken by Russia through attrition and brutal fighting.

The Bakhmut counter attack has been launched
The Bakhmut counter attack has been launched. Picture: Alamy

The Washington Post said two Ukrainian officials said Prigozhin has spoken to the HUR, Ukraine's intelligence agency, several times and had made the offer about Bakhmut more than once.

However, it was rejected over fears he was misleading them. The leaks suggest Kyiv believed Moscow knew about his communication, though it might not have been aware of his offer about Bakhmut.

There was also a suggestion from Ukraine's top spy, Kyrylo Budanov, that the Russian government might want to paint him as an agent for Kyiv.

Read more: Zelenskyy holds talks with Pope Francis in Rome as Italy pledges full support in Ukraine's fight against Russia

A document says he had secretly met with HUR officers in Africa, where Wagner has several contracts.

The leaks suggest he complained about how many fighters he had lost and asked Ukraine to attack regular Russian forces harder.

Prigozhin also told a Ukrainian spy that Ukraine should make an attack on Crimea, the peninsula Russia seized in 2014, because forces there had low morale.

The area around Bakhmut has been a bloodbath
The area around Bakhmut has been a bloodbath. Picture: Alamy

There is no part of Ukraine more important to Putin than the occupied peninsula, which is symbolic for many Russians.

He also told them he knew his own mercenaries were suffering from low morale and did not want to fight in Bakhmut.

Prigozhin mocked the leak on Telegram. He said: "Yes of course I can confirm this information, we have nothing to hide from the foreign special services. Budanov and I are still in Africa."

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Izzet Eren was shot dead

Masked gunman kills Turkish gang boss in 'revenge hit' after girl, 9, shot in botched drive-by at London restaurant

LBC met with two budding England stars at Harry Kane's former school.

Moment LBC met future England stars who attend the same school as Harry Kane

A section of the M25 is set to close this weekend

M25 stretch to close entirely this weekend, amid fears of Heathrow chaos, with other roads set to be 'incredibly busy'

A vigil was held for the three victims on Wednesday's suspected crossbow attack.

Police fear crossbow 'killer' Kyle Clifford held John Hunt's family 'for hours' before their deaths

Exclusive
A life-saving drug used by tens of thousands of people with cancer and Cystic Fibrosis is facing severe supply issues

UK 'pretty much out' of life-saving drug Creon - as 3 in 10 unable to pick up prescription due to medicine shortages

Joe Biden referred to Ukraine's president - as President Putin - before correcting himself while on stage

Joe Biden defiant despite calling Ukrainian leader Zelenskyy 'President Putin', as calls grow for him to stand down

Izzet Erin, the boss of the Tottenham Turks, was shot several times in the head outside a cafe in Moldova

Boss of Tottenham Turks gang behind drive-by shooting of girl, nine, at London restaurant assassinated in Moldova

A group of people thought to be migrants crossing the Channel in a small boat traveling from the coast of France and heading in the direction of Dover, Kent. Picture date: Tuesday August 29, 2023.

Four migrants die attempting to cross English Channel

Two worshippers have been attacked at a gurdwara in Kent

Horror as two Sikh worshippers 'stabbed with large knife' at Kent gurdwara, with teen boy arrested for attempted murder

A top candidate has turned down the job of leading the Border Security Command

Blow to Starmer as former top police office turns down job smashing gangs that run Channel migrant boat crossings

Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer ‘doubles down’ on free vote on assisted dying but hints it won't be in first year of Labour government

Dr Michael Mosley and his wife Clare

Michael Mosley's wife Clare says family are 'trying to put their lives back together' a month after husband's death

Prince Harry praised the 'eternal' bond between mother and son

Prince Harry praises 'eternal bond between mother and son' as he controversially picks up award

Starmer said the UK could recognise Palestine as an independent state even if the United States or Israel don't

UK could recognise Palestine as indendent state even if US or Israel does not, Keir Starmer suggests

Justice Secretary Shabana Mahmood (left) set to announce urgent measures to tackle pressure on men's prison overcrowding

Lord Chancellor to set out plan to prevent prisons disaster and save criminal justice from collapse

Joe Biden referred to Ukraine's president - as President Putin - before correcting himself while on stage

Joe Biden refers to Zelenskyy as 'President Putin' in awkward moment at Nato summit as calls grow for him to step aside