Russian Mercenary Leader says Fighters to Pull Out of Bakhmut

May 5, 2023

The leader of the Russian mercenary organization Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said Friday he would hand over control of the offensive in Bakhmut next week, pointing to a shortage of ammunition.

“I am withdrawing the units of PMC Wagner from Bakhmut because in the absence of ammunition they are doomed to senseless death,” he said in a video statement shared on Telegram, adding that his mercenaries would withdraw to camps on May 10 to “lick our wounds.”

The announcement came hours after Prigozhin went on an expletive-laden tirade, surrounded by dead bodies, in which he blamed Russian defense chiefs for the massive death toll. 

Prigozhin blamed a quickly drying up supply of ammo for the casualty count. 

Ukraine has been determined to hold onto Bakhmut, a regional transport and logistics hub that would otherwise give Russia an opening to advance on two bigger cities in the Donetsk region: Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. Last month Ukraine bulked up its defenses there ahead of an anticipated major counteroffensive.

Prigozhin, known as “Putin’s Chef” for his ties to the Russian President, directly addressed Putin as well as the head of the Russian general staff and defense industry.

The Kremlin said Friday it had seen Prigozhin’s announcement but could not comment. It was unclear as of Friday whether Prigozhin was serious about his intentions because he has a history of unverified claims and empty threats.

In January, the United States toughened its previous sanctions against the Wagner Group,  labeling it a transnational criminal organization responsible for human rights abuses.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby has noted that many of the Wagner Group’s forces have been convicts released from prison to be used as canon fodder.

PHOTO: Press Service of Prigozhin, Telegram

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