Joe Biden tells Wagner chief to be careful what he eats in Putin poison warning

Ukraine: Prigozhin claims death toll is higher than official reports

Vladimir Putin could be planning to poison Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin after his failed mutiny, US President Joe Biden has claimed.

Prigozhin triggered a massive internal crisis last month when he ordered his mercenaries to cross from Ukraine into the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don on June 23, after which they headed towards Moscow, coming to within 130 miles of the Russian capital before Prigozhin called them off.

In a statement issued after the apparent rebellion, Prigozhin insisted he was not trying to topple Putin himself but rather to oust General Staff chief General Valery Gerasimov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu

Neverthless the warlord has not been seen in public since and initial reports suggesting he was in Belarus proved inaccurate.

On Monday, the Kremlin confirmed Prigozhin and 34 of his top officers met with Putin on June 29.

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Speaking in Helsinki on Thursday after a NATO summit, and in a probable reference to Russia’s well-established tradition of political assassination, Mr Biden said: “I’m not even sure where he is. If I were he, I’d be careful what I ate, I’d be keeping an eye on my menu.

“But all kidding aside ..I don’t know. I don’t think any of us know for certain what the future of Prigozhin is in Russia.”

Mr Biden is not the first person to suggest Prigozhin’s days may be numbered.

Speaking to in June, prior to apparent coup attempt a few days later, journalist and author Owen Matthews said it was ”extraordinary” that Prigozhin was “still walking the Earth” given his caustic criticism of the Russian military machine in recent months.

He explained: “It’s incredible in a country which literally puts people in jail for Facebook posts, that you have a man with a private army, who’s regularly, publicly, bitterly, criticising the way the war’s being fought.

“And furthermore, he’s actually literally calling for the trial and execution of Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. I mean, that’s completely hair-raising crazy s*** and it just shows that the Putin is not really in control.”

Mr Matthews, author of Overreach: The Inside Story of Putin’s War Against Ukraine, added: “The fact that Prigozhin even still walks the Earth is extraordinary to me.

“The least surprising piece of news in the world would be Yevgeny Prigozhin getting murdered.”

Speaking to in the wake of the apparent coup, Alicia Kearns, chairwoman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “Firstly, I haven’t actually seen anything that demonstrates Prigozhin is definitely alive as yet.

“I think we have to be quite cautious because Putin’s enemies do have habits of falling out of what I call basement windows.”

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“There are people within the Wagner Group who are now very angry with Prigozhin because they feel like he walked them up a hill and almost to Moscow.”

She continued: “There are also of course, rumours that his family have been taken hostage by Putin. I haven’t seen any credible evidence of that but the fact that the conversation is taking place is not really a surprise.

“The lengths Putin will go to keep power should not be underestimated by anyone. He will do anything to hold on to power.

Separately, a Russian general in charge of forces fighting in southern Ukraine has been relieved of his duties after voicing concerns about out about problems faced by his troops.

Major General Ivan Popov, commander of the 58th army in the Zaporizhzhia region, which is a focal point in Ukraine’s counteroffensive, said in an audio statement to his troops released on Wednesday evening that he was dismissed after a meeting with the military brass in what he described as a “treacherous” stab in the back to Russian forces in Ukraine.

Popov said the military leadership was angered by his frank talk about challenges faced by his forces, particularly the shortage of radars tracking enemy artillery, which resulted in massive Russian casualties.

He said: “The top officers apparently saw me as a source of threat and rapidly issued an order to get rid of me, which was signed by the defence minister in just one day.

“The Ukrainian military has failed to break through our army’s defences, but the top commander hit us in the rear, treacherously and cowardly beheading the army at this most difficult moment.

“I faced a difficult situation with the top leadership when I had to either keep silent and act like a coward, saying what they wanted to hear, or call things by their names.

“I didn’t have the right to lie for the sake of you and our fallen comrades.”

Popov, who uses the call name “Spartacus,” addressed his troops as “my gladiators” in the audio message released by retired General Andrei Gurulev, who commanded the 58th army in the past and currently serves as a Russian MP in the Duma. The 58th army consists of several divisions and smaller units.

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