The head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner declared on Thursday that the flanks of his forces were under pressure near the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.which had caused the loss of a piece of land that his men had captured at great cost.
Yevgeny Prigozhin has argued that it is the task of Russian regular forces to protect Wagner’s flanks near Bakhmut, the city at the center of the war’s longest and bloodiest battle.
“The situation on the flanks is developing according to the worst case scenario”, Prigozhin said in an audio message.
“All the territories that were taken with the blood and lives of our comrades for many months, advancing tens or hundreds of meters a day, are now being given away practically without a fight by those who should be holding our flanks.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said earlier that its paratroopers were supporting an advance on the west of the city and had cornered units of the Ukrainian army on the flanks.
Prigozhin said his fighters were 625 meters from the western suburbs of the city.
Reuters he was unable to independently verify the situation on the battlefield.
Prigozhin is in an ongoing dispute with Russian defense chiefs, accusing them of not providing him with enough support and ammunition. Last week he threatened to withdraw his men from Bakhmut if Moscow did not provide what he needed.
In an earlier message, Prigozhin claimed Thursday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lied when he said Ukraine’s planned counter-offensive had been delayed because it was waiting for more help from foreign countries.
He claimed that the counter-offensive was actually advancing at full speed around Bakhmut and that the Ukrainian operations were proving “unfortunately, partly successful.”
On Wednesday, both Prigozhin and the Ukrainian army claimed that kyiv’s forces had defeated a Russian army unit near Bakhmut, in a significant advance for Ukraine.
The Russian Defense Ministry made no reference to the setback in its daily briefing on Thursday, saying troops were still advancing.
In a statement on Wednesday, Prigozhin said Bakhmut had “no strategic importance” but that the aim of attacking it was to “increase offensive potential, reduce the number of enemy troops and allow the Russian Army to mobilize” after major withdrawals of Russian troops at the end of last year.
(With information from Reuters)
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