Due to a lack of ammunition, the leader of the Russian Wagner mercenary group has said that on May 10 he will withdraw his forces from the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
Yevgeny Prigozhin blamed top Russian defense authorities in a statement that followed the posting of a video showing him strolling amid the bodies of his fallen warriors.
According to Prigozhin, “tens of thousands” had died and been hurt there.
Even though the city’s strategic importance is debatable, Russia has been attempting to seize it for months.
Wagner’s forces have played a significant role.
Over 20,000 Russian soldiers have been killed and 80,000 more have been injured in fighting in Ukraine since December, according to John Kirby, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, who made the claim based on recently declassified intelligence. Wagner group members made up half of the fatalities.
In a statement released on Friday, Prigozhin, 61, blamed the defense ministry directly for his decision to leave Bakhmut.
Shoigu and Gerasimov Where is the munitions, exactly?They arrived here willingly and died so that you may fill up in your mahogany offices.
In light of allegations of bitter infighting among various power groupings in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s entourage, Prigozhin frequently directs his ire at Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
According to the statement, Prigozhin’s Wagner’s casualties were “growing in geometrical progression every day” because to a shortage of ammunition.
But he made it clear that his troops would hold their positions until May 9, which is Russia’s Victory Day in World War Two, and then leave Bakhmut the next day.
In the earlier video, Prigozhin, who was seen addressing his troops, declared that he would “remove the remains of Wagner to logistics camps to lick our wounds” and “transfer positions in the settlement of Bakhmut to units of the defense ministry.”
He continued, “Without ammo, my lads would not suffer needless and unfair losses in Bakhmut.
One of the videos that Prigozhin uploaded on Friday appears to have been shot not far from Bakhmut’s center—approximately 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away. The BBC compared satellite images of the area with ground elements like bushes and power lines.The publicity-seeking Prigozhin has appeared to lose some of his clout lately. He had previously issued threats that he didn’t keep, and he afterwards dismissed them as jokes and military humor.
Only last week, he admitted to a pro-war blogger in Russia that Wagner fighters in Bakhmut were on the verge of running out of ammo and urgently required thousands of rounds.
Regarding Prigozhin’s most recent remarks, the Kremlin is silent.
The military of Ukraine claimed that the level of fighting close to Bakhmut has not decreased.
Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Eastern Command, told BBC Ukrainian that Prigozhin has been attempting to make outlandish claims in order to bring attention to himself for months.
Russia, according to Hanna Malyar, the deputy minister of defense of Ukraine, is frantically attempting to take Bakhmut by May 9.
As the commander of a private army of mercenaries directing the Russian assault, Prigozhin has emerged as a crucial figure in Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine that was initiated in February 2022.
No matter how serious their crimes, he persuaded thousands of prisoners to join his organization in exchange for their promise to fight for Wagner in Ukraine.
Prigozhin is a native of Vladimir Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg in Russia. Prigozhin’s eateries in the city are where the two most likely first met. Years later, Prigozhin’s catering business Concord received a contract to provide food to the Kremlin, giving him the moniker “Putin’s chef”.
Chef for Putin to commander of Russia’s private army
It has been months since the conflict for Bakhmut began. On the same side as the Ukrainian military, Wagner soldiers and regular Russian forces engaged in combat.
Ukraine made the decision to defend the city at any costs in an apparent effort to concentrate Russian military resources on one location of just marginal importance.
Prigozhin published again another picture of his dead soldiers in February, this time blaming the army generals.
Although the military later denied purposefully depriving his Wagner company of shells, they did react at the time by boosting supplies to the front line.
Military analyst Rob Lee, who is located in the US, claims that Wagner’s most recent accusation of a shortage is most likely the result of Russia’s defense ministry restricting ammunition in advance of Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive.
Prigozhin claimed on Twitter that while the ministry must defend the entire front, seizing Bakhmut is his only priority. If Wagner was successful in capturing the city, Prigozhin might take political credit, Mr. Lee continued.
Since tanks and artillery may advance in dry weather after the final spring rain, the mercenary chief himself projected that Ukraine’s counteroffensive will start by May 15.
Separately, it appears that Prigozhin has appointed a former army commander to the position of head of logistics.
Because of his involvement in the bombardment of Mariupol, a port city in southern Ukraine that Russian forces had previously taken control of, Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev earned the moniker “butcher of Mariupol.”
The general, according to Prigozhin, had done his best to assist in supplying mercenaries with ammunition and had cooperated with the group’s efforts to enlist convicted criminals into its ranks.
Col. Gen. Mizintsev was just appointed in head of military supplies in September of last year, shortly after Prigozhin was caught on camera in a Russian jail promising detainees release if they served with his troops in Ukraine.