Russia mercenary group to withdraw troops from Bakhmut
The leader of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group says he will withdraw his troops from the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut on May 10 because of ammunition shortages.
Yevgeny Prigozhin’s statement came after he posted a video of him walking among his dead fighters’ bodies, blaming top Russian defence officials.
“Tens of thousands” had been killed and injured there, Prigozhin said.
Russia has been trying to capture the eastern city for months, despite its questionable strategic value. Wagner troops have been heavily involved.
Earlier this week, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby – citing newly declassified intelligence – said that more than 20,000 Russian soldiers have been killed and another 80,000 wounded in Ukraine since December. Half of the dead were from the Wagner group.
In his statement on Friday, Prigozhin, 61, pinned his decision to withdraw from Bakhmut squarely on the defence ministry, using expletives.
“Shoigu! Gerasimov! Where is the… ammunition? They came here as volunteers and die for you to fatten yourselves in your mahogany offices.”
Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu, and Chief of the General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, have often been the focus for Prigozhin’s anger, amid reports of fierce infighting among different power groups in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s entourage.
In the statement, Prigozhin said his Wagner’s casualties were “growing in geometrical progression every day” because of the lack of ammunition.
But he stressed that his fighters would stay on their positions until May 9, when Russia marks Victory Day in World War Two, and would only withdraw from Bakhmut the following day.
In the video released earlier, Prigozhin – seen standing in front of his men – said he would “transfer positions in the settlement of Bakhmut to units of the defence ministry and withdraw the remains of Wagner to logistics camps to lick our wounds”.
“My lads will not suffer useless and unjustified losses in Bakhmut without ammunition,” he added.
One of the videos released by Prigozhin on Friday appears to have been filmed about 2km (1.2 miles) from the centre of Bakhmut. The BBC has matched ground features, including bushes and pylons, with satellite imagery of the location. -BBC