Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has been arguing with top military brass for months, on Friday escalated the feud by accusing pro-Moscow forces of trying to blow up his men.
Prigozhin's Wagner Group troops have largely pulled back from the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, most of which they captured last month after taking heavy casualties, and handed over their positions to regular Russian forces.
Prigozhin says various explosive devices planted
Prigozhin, writing on Telegram, said his men had discovered a dozen locations in rear areas where defense ministry officials had planted various explosive devices, including hundreds of anti-tank mines. When asked why the charges had been set, the officials indicated it was an order from their superiors.
"It was not necessary to plant these charges in order to deter the enemy, as it (the area in question) is in the rear area. Therefore, we can assume that these charges were intended to meet the advancing units of Wagner," he said.
None of the charges went off and no one was hurt, he said, adding: "We assume this was an attempt at a public flogging."
Russia's defense ministry was not immediately available for comment.
Prigozhin, who regularly complained his men were not given enough ammunition for the assault on Bakhmut, said on Wednesday that he had asked prosecutors to investigate whether senior Russian defense officials had committed any "crime" before or during the war in Ukraine.