Vladimir Putin has cut the phones of Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, as experts say he is "nervous" about his apparent bid for power.
The private mercenary army has been a key fighting force for the Russians in Ukraine, but its leader Prigozhin has relentlessly criticised Russian defence officials.
This appears to have grown into a rivalry between Putin and Prigozhin, with the former worried the latter is vying for his job.
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"Over the last year, Prigozhin has become more public and taken on this populist role,” Russia expert Olga Lautman previously told the Express.
She added the mercenary boss seems to be plotting a “power grab”.
The latest squabble has seen Prigozhin accuse Russian central command of "betrayal" by not supplying ammunition the Wagner Group needs to defeat the Ukrainians in Bakhmut.
Now, Putin has cut his phones meaning access to key defence and security officials has been blocked.
Prigozhin moaned today (Thursday, March 9): “Our ammunition [supply] has not improved. But there has indeed been a change.
“In order for me to stop asking for ammunition, I have had all special communication phones in all offices, in all units, switched off.
“They have…blocked all passes to the [state] agencies that make decisions.
“I will not name them so as not to discredit them in any way. So now I can only ask through the media.”
It is likely only Putin could order Prigozhin to be cut off given that, ostensibly, the pair are still allies fighting on the same side.
Most observers consider Russia's recent success around Bakhmut to be largely down to the Wagner Group.
Wagner mercenaries have fought for Putin in conflicts all over the world and have expanded in numbers massively as of late, with Prigozhin touring Russian prisons and recruiting murderers and rapists into his ranks.
Russian lags have been promised a pardon if they serve a certain amount of time in Ukraine, although reports suggest many are forced to remain after completing their tours.
Prigozhin and Putin had been close allies for years. The mercenary boss is nicknamed 'Putin's Chef' after impressing Putin with his culinary skills and winning major state catering contacts.
There are now suggestions his profile has become too big for Putin's liking, especially with the 70-year-old Russian President soon to decide whether he'll run for a new six-year term in the elections in 12 months.
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