Wagner Group to Remain in Bakhmut
The head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is unlikely to withdraw his units from the embattled city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine after all. He was promised the necessary weapons and ammunition, he said.
“They promised to give us all the ammunition and equipment we need to continue the actions,” Prigozhin said in an audio message. He was assured “that everything necessary will be made available,” added the mercenary leader.
In addition, he was assured of flank protection so that his units would not run the risk of being surrounded, said Prigozhin. Moscow initially did not comment on this.
The city is the epicentre of Ukraine’s struggle against Moscow’s forces. The Wagner group has been leading the months-long Russian attack on Bakhmut and has almost captured the city. On Friday, Prigozhin threatened to withdraw his mercenaries from Bakhmut, citing a lack of supplies from the military leadership.
A “senseless death” threatened the Wagner fighters “due to a lack of ammunition,” explained Prigozhin. “On May 10, 2023, we will have to hand over our positions at Bakhmut to MoD units, and Wagner units will have to withdraw to lick our wounds.”
In the meantime, the Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov had therefore offered to send his unit “Achmat” to Bakhmut if Prigozhin and his people withdrew from the area. “Yes, if the older brother Prigozhin and “Wagner” should go, then the General Staff will lose an experienced unit, and in their place could then come the little brother Kadyrov and, “Akhmat”,” Kadyrov wrote on Telegram on Friday.
Like Kadyrov, Prigozhin is considered a hardliner in Russia’s war of aggression. International military experts had taken Prigozhin’s complaints about a lack of ammunition as a diversionary tactic to distract from their own failures. According to the US Institute for War Studies, the temporarily planned exchange with Kadyrov reflects Prigozhin’s distrust of the Russian military leadership but also allows him to save face if Wagner’s troops cannot take Bakhmut.
Image by Wikimedia (The Russian Press and Information Office/Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)