Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin complained on Tuesday that most of his fighters had not yet received medals promised by President Vladimir Putin for their role in the Ukraine war's bloodiest battle, the latest twist in a feud with the top brass.
Prigozhin's Wagner private army spearheaded the assault on the eastern city of Bakhmut, captured last month by Russian forces after nine months of fighting.
Putin congratulated Wagner and the Russian army at the time and said that all those who distinguished themselves would get state awards.
Wagner Chief Prigozhin at odds with Russian gov't
But Prigozhin, who has publicly accused the Defense Ministry and its leadership of incompetence and of failing to adequately supply his forces, said most of his men had not been decorated.
"Of the state awards for Bakhmut, only Hero of Russia stars have been received. Nothing has been awarded to the fighters, the bulk of the fighters. The lists are with the Defense Ministry," he said in a statement released by his press office.
"According to my information, there is a fuss over signing off on the awards. Everybody has already forgotten that they fought and died there," Prigozhin added, accusing generals of instead "adorning themselves with trinkets."
There was no immediate reaction to his criticism from the Defense Ministry which has ignored his public complaints.
"According to my information, there is a fuss over signing off on the awards. Everybody has already forgotten that they fought and died there."Yevgeny Prigozhin
His outburst comes as he remains locked in a murky standoff with the Defense Ministry over an order for mercenary groups like his to sign formal contracts with the ministry before July 1.
The move would more closely integrate Wagner and Prigozhin into the Defense Ministry's command structure in a subordinate position.
Prigozhin initially refused to sign anything and has since said, without providing details, that he is proposing an alternative contract himself.