Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said he will withdraw his mercenaries from the embattled town of Bakhmut, Ukraine, saying his fighters are “doomed to senseless death” because Russia’s Defense Ministry is depriving them of ammunition.
“By not giving us shells, you are not depriving us of victory, you are depriving the people of Russia of victory,” Prigozhin said in a video released on his Telegram account. “We will lick our wounds, and when the Motherland is in danger, we will rise again to defend it. The Russian people can count on us.”
Prigozhin said Wagner Group would leave Bakhmut on May 10, one day after Victory Day — an important holiday in Russia celebrating Moscow’s triumph over Nazi Germany in World War II.
Bakhmut, a city in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, has become a major battleground in the war effort as Russia has pounded away at the city for months, making only incremental gains while expending troops and ammunition at a great cost.
The assault has been led by the Wagner Group, which began encircling Ukrainian defenders in the late winter fueled by a new Russian offensive but has since struggled to make any gains.
Now, Ukraine is looking to exploit the failed Russian offensive and is eyeing a counterattack, which could be coming any day now.
Bakhmut is a strategic point in the Donetsk region and the wider eastern Donbas, which Russia has looked to seize this spring.
In the video, Prigozhin heavily criticized Russian defense leaders, directly accusing them of inadequacy and a failure to achieve its goals.
He said the Russian army and mercenary fighters should have seized Bakhmut by May 9, but the “bureaucrats” had cut off artillery ammunition and allegedly lied about the number of Russian troops fighting in the city.
“The named number of troops is very different from the real one, there are a lot of additions: instead of tens of thousands there are tens and rarely hundreds of soldiers,” Prigozhin accused.
Wagner Group, primarily known for its meddling in conflicts in Africa and Syria, first entered Ukraine in March 2022 after Russia’s initial plan to seize the capital of Ukraine and large swaths of the country failed.
Since October, when Russia began concentrating on Bakhmut and eastern Ukraine, Prigozhin has played an outsized role in broadcasting the war effort on the Russian side and has repeatedly complained about a lack of ammunition.
It’s unclear how truthful his statements have been, and Moscow has rarely addressed them publicly.
In the video, he said Wagner Group ran out of offensive resources in April and now has a 90 percent shortage in ammunition.
The mercenary chief requested the Russian Ministry of Defense replace his troops at the border ahead of his withdrawal.
“After a while, there will be clever people who will say that we should have stayed in Bakhmut even longer,” Prigozhin said. “Whoever has critical remarks — come to Bakhmut, welcome, stand with weapons in their hands instead of our killed comrades.”
Source: Wagner chief says mercenaries will leave Bakhmut, blasts Moscow | The Hill