As Russia vowed to reply “extraordinarily harshly” to a uncommon, two-day border incursion by pro-Ukrainian fighters, the chief of Russia’s largest mercenary drive warned that it confronted additional setbacks until its ruling elite took drastic, and certain unpopular, measures to win the warfare.

“The most certainly situation for us in a particular operation wouldn’t be one,” Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the founding father of the Wagner mercenary group, mentioned in a profanity-laced interview with a pro-Kremlin political observer revealed late Tuesday on the Telegram messaging platform. “We’re in such a situation that we may lose Russia,” he continued, his speech laced with profanity. “We have now to arrange for a really arduous warfare that can end in a whole bunch of hundreds of casualties.”

An oligarch carefully allied with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Mr. Prigozhin has been ramping up strain on Russia’s navy management with bombastic diatribes on public web platforms, and increasing his criticism to the nation’s moneyed elites.

He has been additional empowered by his infamous mercenary drive’s function within the latest conquest of Bakhmut, Russia’s first battlefield victory in months. Nevertheless, Russian state media has saved his identify out of its protection of these occasions, displaying how Russia’s propaganda machine has been hiding elite infighting and issues on the entrance line from the Russian individuals.

Within the interview, Mr. Prigozhin known as for complete warfare — one thing Mr. Putin has rigorously prevented, in search of to reassure his those that their lives won’t be disrupted by the “particular navy operation” in Ukraine. That place has grown tougher to keep up because the warfare drags on and Russian losses mount.

The Kremlin, Mr. Prigozhin mentioned, should declare a brand new wave of mobilization to name up extra fighters and declare martial legislation and drive “everybody doable” into the nation’s ammunition manufacturing efforts.

“We should cease constructing new roads and infrastructure services and work just for the warfare, to dwell for a number of years within the picture of North Korea,” he mentioned. “If we win, we are able to construct something. We stabilize the entrance after which transfer on to some sort of energetic motion.”

The choice, he mentioned, is extra violence, however inside Russia, perpetrated by atypical individuals fed up with elites, whom Mr. Prigozhin characterised as ignoring the truth of warfare however not doing sufficient to win it.

“The youngsters of the elite smear themselves with lotions, displaying it on the web, atypical individuals’s youngsters are available zinc, torn to items,” he mentioned, referencing the coffins of useless troopers, and including that these killed in motion had “tens of hundreds” of family members. “Society all the time calls for justice, and if there is no such thing as a justice, then revolutionary sentiments come up.”

Mr. Prigozhin mentioned his Wagner drive alone had misplaced 20,000 males throughout the warfare in Ukraine, half of whom had been recruited from prisons. These convict fighters symbolize 20 p.c of the overall variety of imprisoned convicts who joined the preventing drive.

A State Division spokesman, Matthew Miller, mentioned that america thought-about Mr. Prigozhin’s quantity a major undercount of his losses. Even so, it’s considerably larger than the Russian Armed Forces’ losses that the Kremlin has acknowledged. Whereas American estimates vary considerably larger, the Russian authorities has admitted solely the deaths of 6,000 troopers — statistics final publicly shared in September.

Mr. Prigozhin’s feedback within the interview got here after an incursion into Russia’s Belgorod area by Ukraine-aligned militants. The fighters, ethnic Russians who search Ukraine’s victory, apparently used U.S.-made armored automobiles, and instigated the fiercest preventing on Russian soil for the reason that warfare began 15 months in the past.

Mr. Prigozhin mentioned Ukraine had “one of many strongest armies on the earth” and added that the violence on the border mirrored poor management on the highest degree of Russian navy. He has usually singled out Protection Minister Sergei Ok. Shoigu as the thing of his ire, and within the interview, Mr. Prigozhin outlined his private credo as, “I like my motherland, I serve Putin, Shoigu ought to be judged and we are going to battle on.”

In short remarks throughout a gathering with colleagues on Wednesday, Mr. Shoigu supplied no response to Mr. Prigozhin’s feedback and maintained that Russia would “reply promptly and intensely harshly” to any additional incursions by “Ukrainian militants.”

Many analysts and different observers marvel at Mr. Prigozhin’s common diatribes in opposition to Russia’s elite in a society that’s strictly managed, and particularly his focused criticisms of Mr. Shoigu.

“He’s enjoying a really harmful recreation,” one rich Moscow-based businessman mentioned of Mr. Prigozhin in an interview with The New York Instances in late March, asking for anonymity to debate a distinguished Kremlin-connected particular person. “If he doesn’t cease, he’ll wind up like Aleksei Navalny.” Mr. Navalny, Russia’s most distinguished opposition politician, is now unwell in a penal colony.

However Wagner’s latest victory in Bakhmut after a grueling monthslong battle has given Mr. Prigozhin political carte blanche, mentioned Dmitri Oreshkin, a Russian political scientist and Kremlin critic.

“You might be given all the things, permission to interrupt the legislation, to take individuals from prisons with out asking anybody’s permission, to kill these individuals in case you don’t like them for self-discipline,” Mr. Oreshkin mentioned concerning the phrases of the deal between Mr. Putin and Mr. Prigozhin. “If he had not introduced this victory, he would have been torn aside” by the elites he has been disparaging.

“For him it was a matter of life and dying.”

Milana Mazaeva contributed reporting.