Wagner mercenary group boss threatens to pull paramilitary troops from Bakhmut


Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, in Moscow on April 8, 2023.

The boss of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin threatened to pull his troops out of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine next week because of a critical 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.

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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 die 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 said his forces would leave Bakhmut by May 10 − Wednesday.

Many of Wagner's fighters are convicts recruited from Russian prisons. They have been fighting alongside Russia's regular army in Bakhmut and elsewhere along the frontline for months, where they have suffered heavy losses and often appeared to informally compete with Russia's official military for resources.

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Prigozhin said in the video that were if not for ammunition shortages many Wagner soldiers would be alive.

“You sit there, bastards, in expensive clubs,” Prigozhin said, addressing Shoigu and Gerasimov. “You think you’re the masters of this life and that you have the right to dispose of their lives.”

There was no immediate reaction from Russia's defense ministry or the Kremlin.

Ukraine's military has also complained about ammunition shortages in Bakhmut, and more generally.

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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