Wagner Group announces withdrawal from Bachmut

The Russian army and the Wagner group had already claimed victory over Bakhmut at the weekend.

Now the head of the mercenary group has announced that they will be withdrawn by June 1st because the city has been taken. According to Ukraine, however, the fighting continues.

The head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has announced that he will withdraw his fighters from the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut later this month. “Wagner will leave Artemovsk between May 25 and June 1,” Prigozhin said in a voice message on Telegram, referring to Bakhmut by a previous name referring to a Soviet revolutionary.

Prigozhin said the mercenaries established “defense lines” in the western outskirts before the planned handover of the city of Bakhmut to the Russian army. “If the Defense Ministry doesn’t have enough staff, we have thousands of generals,” Prigozhin said. Both Wagner and the Russian army claimed the capture of Bakhmut over the weekend.

On Saturday, Prigozhin announced in a video against the background of the destroyed city that Bakhmut had been taken by his fighters and said Wagner wanted to withdraw by May 25. Russian President Vladimir Putin then congratulated both Wagner and the Russian army on the alleged conquest.

Ukraine: “Battle for Bakhmut” continues

However, Ukraine denies this and said its own army still controls a small part of the eastern Ukrainian city and is still fighting there. Despite attempts by Russian forces to “take control of the entire city,” Ukrainian units continued to defend “several buildings and a number of fortifications in the south-western part of Bakhmut,” spokesman for the Ukrainian Army’s Eastern Command Serhiy Cherevatyy said on Sunday evening Ukrainian television.

According to the Ukrainian general staff, Bakhmut and the small town of Marinka near Donetsk remain the “epicenter of the fighting.” The “battle for Bakhmut” is going on, according to the statement by the general staff. There was heavy fighting in Marjinka and the nearby Avdiivka in particular. Russia carried out four missile strikes and 45 airstrikes on Sunday.

Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maljar said Ukrainian forces “partially encircled” Bakhmut after breaking through flanks held by Russia. The situation in Bakhmut is “very difficult” for Russia. Ukrainian forces continued to hold “certain industrial and infrastructure facilities” in the city.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also said at the G7 summit in Hiroshima on Sunday that Bakhmut was “not occupied by Russia”.

US institute sees Wagner group weakened

According to Western experts, the Wagner Group has been weakened by the fighting in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. The US Institute for War Studies (ISW) in Washington announced that the mercenaries were hardly able to carry out new attacks outside the city due to the wear and tear.

At the same time, military analysts assumed that Bakhmut is largely controlled by Russian troops. The Ukrainian armed forces, on the other hand, counterattacked north and south of Bakhmut and controlled communication routes around the city.

According to the ISW experts, the Russian forces may need further reinforcements to hold Bakhmut, which lies largely in ruins, and to protect the flanks. This would also prevent the Russians from advancing in the west in the direction of Kostyantynivka and in the north in the direction of Soledar, as planned. If Prigozhin actually withdraws his troops this week, then the regular Russian armed forces will be even less motivated to launch new attacks, according to the ISW analysis.

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