Kremlin, mercenary boss dismiss report Wagner offered to betray Russian troops
(Reuters) -The head of Russia's Wagner private army dismissed a U.S. newspaper report on Monday that he had offered to betray Russian positions, and the Kremlin called it a "hoax".
The Washington Post, citing a U.S. intelligence leak, said Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin had offered Ukrainian intelligence in January to reveal the location of Russian regular forces in return for Ukraine pulling back troops in Bakhmut.
Wagner's soldiers have been at the forefront of Russia's offensive to take the eastern city in the longest and bloodiest battle of the war. Prigozhin has emerged as a persistent critic of the Russian military brass, accusing commanders of betraying his men by withholding ammunition.
The Post said Prigozhin's offer had been rebuffed by Ukraine which did not trust him.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the report "looks like the latest hoax".
In an audio message posted by his press service on Telegram on Monday, Prigozhin called the allegations "nonsense", and suggested that residents of Moscow's Rublyovka suburb, home to the business and political elite, were behind an attack on him.
Prigozhin denied having met Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukrainian military intelligence, in Africa, saying he had not been on the continent since the start of the Ukraine conflict and portraying the idea of a phone call with him as laughable.
Since last week, Ukrainian forces have made their biggest gains in six months, recapturing territory around Bakhmut. Prigozhin has released daily messages denouncing the Russian regular military's brass for failing to supply his men adequately and abandoning ground on Bakhmut's flanks.
The defence ministry has not explicitly addressed Prigozhin's complaints in public, but has repeatedly said it is providing Russian forces with all the resources and support they need.
A White House spokesman declined to comment on the Washington Post report, which was based on secret U.S. documents leaked to the group-chat platform Discord.
(Reporting by Brad Heath; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Kevin Liffey, Peter Graff)