Mercenaries will leave Bakhmut in Ukraine in days, warns Prigozhin, citing an ammunition shortage blamed on Russia.
The feared leader of Russia’s Wagner Group has warned that his mercenaries will leave Bakhmut on May 10, citing an ammunition shortage blamed on Russia’s defense chief.
Yevgeny Prigozhin vowed Friday to withdraw from the eastern Ukrainian city that Moscow has been trying to take for months, ending the group’s involvement in the war’s longest and bloodiest battle, as he appeared in a video surrounded by dozens of corpses he said were Wagner fighters, shouting and swearing at Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
In a separate statement addressed to Gerasimov, Shoigu’s ministry, and President Vladimir Putin as commander-in-chief, he said: “On May 10, 2023, we are required to transfer positions in the Bakhmut settlement to Defense Ministry units and the remnants to retreat. from Wagner to logistics camps to lick our wounds.
“I take Wagner units from Bakhmut because for want of ammunition they are doomed to perish senseless.”
Wagner spearheaded Russia’s protracted and costly effort to capture Bakhmut, which Prigozhin said three weeks ago his men controlled more than 80 percent of.
Ukrainian defenders have acknowledged heavy fighting but held their ground.
Prigozhin has spent months expressing increasing anger at what he describes as a lack of support from the Russian defense establishment.
It was not clear whether his latest statement could be taken at face value as he has often posted impulsive remarks in the past.
Just last week, he retracted a statement he said he had made as a “joke”.
“Where’s the ammunition?”
Earlier on Friday, he was seen in a video surrounded by dozens of bodies in military uniform as he blamed Russian officials for starving them of ammunition.
“Shoigu, Gerasimov, where the fuck is the ammunition?” Prigozhin said in the video.
“They came here as volunteers and they die so you can get fat in your wood paneled offices,” he said.
‘These guys are from Wagner. They passed away today. Their blood is still fresh,” he said, adding that army chiefs “will go to hell” for not sending weapons.
Bakhmut, a city of 70,000 before the start of the war, has taken on immense symbolic significance for both sides due to the sheer intensity and duration of the fighting there.
Over eight months of fighting is believed to have cost thousands of lives, though neither side reports their losses.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that if Bakhmut falls, it could boost international support for a deal that could pressure his country to make unacceptable compromises.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he could not comment on Prigozhin’s statement.
Prigozhin is closely associated with President Vladimir Putin, and the two began their careers in business and politics in their native St. Petersburg after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.