Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Russia's Wagner private militia, on Monday dismissed a report in the Washington Post, sourced to a US intelligence leak, that he had offered to reveal the position of Russian troops to the Ukrainian government, and the Kremlin called it a "hoax."
Wagner's soldiers have been at the forefront of a bloody Russian offensive to take the city of Bakhmut.
The Post reported that Prigozhin in January offered to tell Ukrainian intelligence the positions of Russian forces, with which his militia has frequently been at loggerheads, in exchange for Ukraine pulling back from the area.
The paper said Ukraine had rejected the offer.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the report "looks like the latest hoax."
Wagner mercenaries chief calls report "nonsense"
In an audio message posted by his press service on Telegram on Monday, Yevgeny Prigozhin called the allegations "nonsense," and suggested that unnamed residents of Moscow's Rublyovka suburb, home to many of the business and political elite, were orchestrating an attack on him.
Prigozhin also denied having met Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukrainian military intelligence, in an unnamed African country, saying he had not been in the continent since the start of the Ukraine conflict and portraying the idea of a phone call with him as laughable.
Prigozhin last week publicly threatened to withdraw his mercenaries from Bakhmut, where they have led the Russian offensive for months at enormous cost in casualties, unless they receive more ammunition from the defense ministry. But he also said he and his men would be seen as traitors if they did so.
He has also accused the regular army of failing to defend Wagner's flanks as it had promised, and has repeatedly suggested that top Russian defense officials and business elites are undermining the military effort in Ukraine.
The Post reported that Prigozhin's offer had come through his contacts with Ukraine's intelligence service.
A White House spokesman declined to comment on the report, which was based on secret US documents leaked to the group-chat platform Discord.