(Moscow) The paramilitary group Wagner said on Sunday it had “a promise” from Moscow that it would receive more ammunition after threatening to withdraw from Bakhmout in eastern Ukraine amid the prospect of a Ukrainian counter-offensive is becoming more pressing with new drone attacks on Crimea.
The Russian administration in the peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014 claimed that Ukraine had launched a dozen drones on the port city of Sevastopol, which it said were neutralized by anti-aircraft defense and electronic jamming.
“No infrastructure in the city was damaged,” said Mikhail Razvojayev, the city governor.
The day before, the Russian authorities had announced that they had shot down a Ukrainian ballistic missile over Crimea, an event rarely reported.
Since the summer of 2022, the peninsula has been regularly hit by drone attacks. At the end of April, one of them caused a huge fire in an oil depot in Sevastopol.
It was in this context of the increasingly perceptible threat of a counter-offensive by Ukrainian forces armed with new weapons, including Western armored vehicles, that the boss of the Wagner group, Evguéni Prigojine, had the effect of a blow thunder by threatening in an incendiary video on Friday to withdraw his mercenaries from Bakhmout, the epicenter of the fighting in the east, if they did not receive more ammunition.
“Last night we received a combat order […]. We are promised to give us all the ammunition and armaments we need to continue operations, “he finally announced Sunday in an audio message.
The battle for Bakhmout has been going on since last summer in this locality of limited strategic value, but which has taken on great symbolic weight, especially on the eve of celebrations in Moscow on May 9 of the 1945 Soviet victory over the Nazis, one of the pillars of the militarist narrative of Russian power.
Wagner’s troops launched extremely deadly waves of assaults on Bakhmout, which had been turned into a field of ruins and now, according to Mr. Prigozhin, about 95% controlled by his troops.
But the Ukrainian army always says it defends itself fiercely. “The enemy is not going to change its objectives and is doing everything to control Bakhmout,” commented General Oleksandr Syrsky, commander of the Ukrainian ground forces, quoted by the Ministry of Defense on Sunday after a visit to the front in the East.
According to Syrsky, Russia has been regrouping its forces in the area in recent days and has stepped up its bombardment with heavy weapons.
“It’s been difficult for a month […] there were days when there were 100 injured, and others when there were 50 to 60 […] It all depends on what happens in Bakhmout “, explained Friday to AFP Volodymyr Pihulevskiï, a 38-year-old surgeon, member of the Ukrainian medical team who treats the soldiers wounded in this battle as best they can.
“We had a lot of casualties. We were 124 fighters at the start of the war, we are less than 80, ”said Denis, 25, injured in the shoulder, member of a parachute unit.
In full fear of a Ukrainian offensive, the Russian occupation authorities announced Friday partial evacuations in 18 occupied localities in the Ukrainian region of Zaporizhia (south).
On Sunday, the head of the local occupation administration, Yevgeny Balitsky, claimed on Telegram that more than 1,500 people had already been evacuated.
These evacuations concern in particular the city of Energodar, where the majority of the employees of the Zaporijjia nuclear power plant live.
But an evacuation of the employees of the nuclear power plant, whose six reactors are shut down, is not currently planned, announced Saturday Yuri Tchernichuk, director of the site appointed by the Russian authorities.
On Saturday, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, expressed concern about an “increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous” situation around the plant.
The IAEA has once again warned of the risk of a “serious nuclear accident”, even though the plant, occupied by the Russian military, is at the center of an extremely strategic area for the Ukrainian counter-offensive towards Crimea.
Finally, in Russia, the nationalist writer Zakhar Prilepin, a fervent supporter of the offensive against Ukraine in which he claimed to be taking part, came out of a coma after having been operated on the day before to treat the injuries caused by the explosion of his car, which killed its driver near Nizhny Novgorod. The regional governor said his condition was “stable” on Sunday.