The leader of the Wagner Group mercenaries said on Thursday that his troops andThey began to withdraw from Bakhmut and hand over control of the city to the Russian army.days after announcing that his forces had captured the devastated city.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the millionaire owner of Wagner and longtime ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, indicated in a video posted on Telegram that the delivery would be completed by June 1. The Russian Defense Ministry did not comment on the announcement.
Prigozhin said on May 21 that his fighters had accomplished their mission of completely taking Bakhmut after a nine-month battle that killed tens of thousands.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister reported that Wagner’s units had been replaced by soldiers in the suburbs, but that his fighters remained inside the city.
Prigozhin’s triumph over Bakhmut handed Putin a much-needed victory, after the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine had petered out and facing the possibility of a Ukrainian counter-offensive with advanced weaponry supplied by Kiev’s Western allies.
Prigozhin has had a long-standing feud with Russian military commanders that dates back to Wagner’s creation. He has also earned a reputation for making flashy and often unverifiable comments.
During the 15-month war in Ukraine, he frequently attacked the Russian military leadership, accusing them of incompetence and failing to adequately supply their troops as they waged the battle for Bakhmut.
Wagner’s involvement in the taking of the city enhanced the businessman’s prestige, which he used to promote his views on the progress of the war.
“Prigozhin is … taking advantage of the perception that Wagner is responsible for Bakhmut’s capture to claim a huge level of influence over the Russian war effort in Ukraine,” said the Institute for the Study of War, a think tank. Washington.
His frequent disparaging comments about Russian military performance are unusual in the Russian political system, where Putin is usually the only one who can voice such criticisms.
The announcement of his plans to Bakhmut came a day after Prigozhin again backtracked on the Kremlin’s official message on Ukraine, saying the exact opposite of the stated goal of demilitarizing the country had been achieved.
Moreover, he acknowledged that Russian troops killed civilians and agreed with Western estimates that he lost more than 20,000 men in the battle for Bakhmut.
attack on Kiev
Meanwhile, Russia launched a round of Iranian-made Shahed drones against Kiev – the 12th night airstrike this month on the Ukrainian capital – though the city’s air defenses shot down all of them, Ukrainian authorities said on Thursday.
Kremlin forces also launched 30 air strikes and 39 multiple rocket launch attacks, as well as artillery and mortar fire at several locations in Ukraine, the Ukrainian military said.
At least one civilian was killed and 13 injured in Ukraine on Wednesday and overnight, Ukraine’s presidential office said on Thursday.
In Russia, for its part, the foreign ministry announced on Thursday that five Swedish diplomats would be expelled from the country.
The ministry attributed the decision to Stockholm’s “openly hostile move” to declare five employees of Russian diplomatic missions in Sweden persona non grata in April.
Moscow has also indicated it will close its Gothenburg office in September and withdraw its formal consent to the activities of the Swedish office in St. Petersburg.
Mary Ortiz is a seasoned journalist with a passion for world events. As a writer for News Rebeat, she brings a fresh perspective to the latest global happenings and provides in-depth coverage that offers a deeper understanding of the world around us.