Head of Russia's Wagner Mercenary Force Threatens Withdrawal from Battle for Bakhmut as Casualties Rise. In a recent interview with Russian military blogger Semyon Pegov, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia's Wagner mercenary force, expressed grave concerns about the ongoing battle for Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. As casualty rates continue to mount, Prigozhin threatened to withdraw his troops from the key battlefront due to a severe shortage of artillery ammunition. The loss of lives in Bakhmut is reported to be five times higher than necessary because of this ammunition deficit.
Prigozhin highlighted the dire situation in his interview, stating, "Every day we have stacks of thousands of bodies that we put in coffins and send home." He further revealed that he had written a letter to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, urgently requesting ammunition resupply. Prigozhin warned that if the deficit is not addressed promptly, his forces would be left with no choice but to withdraw or face certain death.
While some fighters may indeed be withdrawn from Bakhmut, Prigozhin cautioned that such a move would inevitably lead to the collapse of the Russian front line elsewhere. He lamented the high number of casualties suffered due to the ammunition shortage, stating that the losses would have been significantly lower if they had received adequate supplies. Prigozhin has previously accused Russia's regular armed forces of withholding ammunition from his men, as well as accusing the top brass of betrayal.
In response to Prigozhin's claims, a Ukrainian military spokesperson stated on Saturday that Russian forces have been unsuccessful in cutting off supply routes to the Ukrainian defenders in Bakhmut. This development signifies a resilience on the part of Ukraine's military authorities, who have managed to maintain their supply lines despite the ongoing conflict.
According to reports from the Institute for the Study of War, Prigozhin revealed that his forces have received only 800 of the 4,000 shells per day they had requested from Russia's Ministry of Defense. This glaring shortfall in ammunition has severely impacted their ability to sustain the battle in Bakhmut.
Furthermore, Prigozhin expressed concerns about an imminent counteroffensive by Ukraine, stating that it is expected to commence before May 15. He expressed disappointment at the lack of urgency displayed by Russian forces in preparing for the anticipated onslaught.
The Institute for the Study of War suggested that Prigozhin's threat to withdraw from Bakhmut might indicate his fear of vulnerabilities in the Russian positions in the city's rear, making them susceptible to counterattacks. This concern adds to the complexity and uncertainty surrounding the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.
As the battle for Bakhmut continues, the situation remains tense, with both sides grappling for control while grappling with significant challenges. The shortage of ammunition faced by Prigozhin's forces highlights the difficulties they face on the ground, with dire consequences for the soldiers engaged in the fighting. The ramifications of this conflict extend beyond the battlefield, affecting regional stability and international relations, with the potential for further escalation in the days to come.