Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, warned that Russia could face a revolution similar to those of 1917 and lose the conflict in Ukraine unless the elite got serious about fighting the war.
Russia's most powerful mercenary said his political outlook was dominated by love for the motherland and serving President Vladimir Putin, but cautioned that Russia was in danger of turmoil.
Prigozhin said there was a so-called optimistic view that the West would get tired of war and China would broker a peace deal, but that he did not really believe in that interpretation.
Instead, he said, Ukraine was preparing a counteroffensive aimed at pushing Russian troops back to its borders before 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea. Ukraine would try to encircle Bakhmut, the focus of intense fighting in the east, and attack Crimea, he added.
Wagner's Prigozhin: Russia needs martial law
"Most likely of all, this scenario will not be good for Russia so we need to prepare for an arduous war," he said in an interview posted on his Telegram channel.
"We are in such a condition that we could f***ing lose Russia - that is the main problem...we need to impose martial law."
Prigozhin said his nickname "Putin's chef" was stupid as he could not cook and had never been a chef, quipping that "Putin's butcher" might be a more apt nickname.
"They could have just given me a nickname right away — Putin's butcher, and everything would have been fine," he said.
If ordinary Russians continued getting their children back in zinc coffins while the children of the elite "shook their arses" in the sun, he said, Russia would face turmoil along the lines of the 1917 revolutions that ushered in a civil war.
"This divide can end as in 1917 with a revolution," he said.
"First the soldiers will stand up, and after that - their loved ones will rise up," he said. "There are already tens of thousands of them - relatives of those killed. And there will probably be hundreds of thousands - we cannot avoid that."
The defense ministry did not respond to a request for comment.