Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force, has threatened to withdraw his troops from Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine next week due to a catastrophic shortage of ammunition. Russia has been trying to capture the embattled city for months.
The claim comes as independent military experts believe Ukraine is on the verge or has already started a counteroffensive against Russia’s military almost 15 months after Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine.
Prigozhin made the threat in a video that was also posted on social-messaging site Telegram. Prigozhin is known for being a publicity seeker who routinely makes false statements, unverifiable claims, and threats he doesn’t follow through on. He is a longtime close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Shoigu! Gerasimov! Where is the … ammunition? They came here as volunteers and died for you to fatten yourselves in your mahogany offices,” Prigozhin said. Shoigu is Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Gerasimov is Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff of Russia’s armed forces.
Prigozhin stated that his men would depart Bakhmut on Wednesday.
Many of Wagner’s fighters are convicted criminals recruited from Russian jails. They have been fighting alongside Russia’s regular army in Bakhmut and elsewhere along the front line for months, suffering huge losses and frequently appearing to compete for resources with Russia’s official military.
Many Wagner men would still be alive, said to Prigozhin, if not for ammunition shortages.
“You sit there, (expletive), in expensive clubs,” Prigozhin told Shoigu and Gerasimov. “You believe you are the masters of this life and have the authority to dispose of their lives.”
Russia’s defense ministry and the Kremlin did not respond immediately.
Ukraine’s military has also expressed concern over ammunition shortages in Bakhmut and elsewhere.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, has assessed that Russia’s military has, as of May 3, “continued to make gains in and around Bakhmut.”
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