(Moscow) The Russian paramilitary group Wagner said on Friday that it would be forced to withdraw on May 10 from the town of Bakhmout, the epicenter of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, because of a lack of ammunition blamed on the army.
If the Wagner group withdraws from Bakhmout where it is on the front line, it would put the Russian army in a delicate position, at a time when the Kyiv forces say they are completing their preparations before a major offensive presented as imminent.
His boss, businessman Yevgeny Prigojine, has for months accused the Russian general staff of not providing enough ammunition to Wagner to deprive him of a victory in Bakhmout which would overshadow the army. regular.
But in two videos released Friday by his press service, Mr Prigozhin’s attacks reach an unprecedented level, exposing the deep tensions that exist within Moscow’s forces.
“We were going to take the city of Bakhmout before May 9,” the day Moscow celebrates with great fanfare the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, Prigozhin says in one of the videos.
“When they saw this, the military bureaucrats stopped the [ammunition] deliveries […] Therefore, from May 10, 2023, we will withdraw from Bakhmout,” he adds.
Mr. Prigojine justifies this decision by his refusal to let “[his] guys, without ammunition, suffer unnecessary and unjustified losses”.
“We are awaiting an order to leave Bakhmout. We will be in Bakhmout until May 9 […] After that, we will go to the rear camps,” he added, indicating that the positions held by Wagner would be handed over to the regular army.
It was not immediately clear whether these words expressed a firm decision or an ultimatum: Wagner’s boss often makes impulsive statements, out of anger, before sometimes backtracking.
Asked by the press, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had “seen these statements in the media”, but refused to comment on them.
In another particularly virulent video published overnight from Thursday to Friday, Mr. Prigozhin specifically attacks Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov.
Wandering at night among dozens of bodies presented as those of members of Wagner just killed in action, he says: “These guys are from Wagner. They died today, their blood is still warm… They died so that you could fatten yourself in your offices! »
“You sit in your overpriced clubs and your kids enjoy life, make YouTube videos!” “, continues Mr. Prigojine, raining down insults.
“Shoigu! Gerasimov! Where are my fucking shells? ! he shouts, his face contorted with rage.
Wagner has suffered heavy losses in recent months trying to take the city of Bakhmout in eastern Ukraine. The paramilitary group has conquered a large part of the city, but is unable to take the last Ukrainian positions.
If the Kremlin denies any tension within the Russian forces, the latest statements by Mr. Prigojine prove the opposite.
Mr. Prigojine accuses the Russian army command of not providing him with the ammunition he needs to prolong the battle of Bakhmout in order to weaken Wagner and prevent him from achieving a victory that would contrast with the humiliating reverses suffered these past last months by the regular forces.
Several thousand kilometers away, during a trip to India, the head of Russian diplomacy once again accused the United States of being linked to an alleged attack by Ukrainian drones against the Kremlin that Moscow claims to have foiled Wednesday.
Washington has denied any involvement and Kyiv accuses Moscow of having staged the alleged attack to justify to the Russian population an escalation of the conflict.
“This is a hostile act. It is clear that the Kyiv terrorists could not have done it without their bosses knowing about it,” Lavrov said.
Brushing aside denials from Kyiv and Washington, he said “the ability of our Ukrainian and Western friends to lie is very well known.”
This alleged drone attack should be on the menu of a meeting of the Russian Security Council that Vladimir Putin is to chair on Friday.