Prighozin Comments on Bakhmut Withdrawal

Founder of Wagner private mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin leaves a cemetery before the funeral of Russian military blogger Maxim Fomin widely known by the name of Vladlen Tatarsky, who was recently killed in a bomb attack in a St Petersburg cafe, in Moscow, Russia, April 8, 2023. | Image by Yulia Morozova, REUTERS

The heavy toll on Russia for its war with Ukraine is likely to increase, says the man whose private army is tasked with fighting on behalf of the Kremlin.

The Wagner mercenary army, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, reportedly withdrew from devastated Bakhmut in the Russian-claimed province of Donetsk just days after he and his forces had allegedly secured the city.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) say “heavy fighting” continues in Bakhmut, contradicting Russian claims that Wagner forces captured the city.

Furthermore, it appears that Ukraine has been able to mount offensives into Russia in the past week. Russia claims to have shot down Ukrainian drones in the same Belgorod province that saw an over-the-border incursion earlier this week, according to a widely published Associated Press report.

Russia’s military said the incursion was by Ukrainian saboteurs, while Kyiv claimed that the fight was with internal Russian factions who have tired of the rulers in the Kremlin.

The Belgorod region is just about 45 miles north of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, which Kyiv controls. The area is critical as a Russian military fuel and ammunition storage location, and any successful attacks there — whether they are by partisans or regular AFU — could seriously hinder the Russian military’s ability to supply its long but not very deep defensive lines within the areas it still controls inside Ukraine.

These setbacks and miscalculations may be straining the Russian war machine’s command structure.

In an interview last week with Kremlin-friendly blogger Konstantin Dolgov, Prigozhin painted a dire picture of the state of the war from the Russian perspective. His demeanor was a striking contrast to the clipped yet always triumphant tone taken by much of the Russian media when discussing the war.

He claimed that 20,000 of his Wagner forces died fighting in Bakhmut. The Kremlin has consistently reported lower rates of losses since the war began in February 2022.

His candid remarks include an admission that the Kremlin’s attempts to portray the war as a “denazification” and “demilitarization” of Ukraine have failed and made Ukraine the world’s favorite underdog.

“We legitimized Ukraine,” Prighozin argued.

Instead of demilitarizing, Ukraine has increased its military manpower to 400,000 men with “one of the strongest armies,” he observed.

Prigozhin shared his thoughts on the Belgorod region incursions too, stating that “our defense is completely unprepared” for attackers who too easily breach the border between the two countries.

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