Wagner Cartel Withdraws from Bakhmut Due to Lack of Ammo and Support from Moscow

The Wagner paramilitary cartel, led by Evgeny Prigozhin, has been at the forefront of Moscow's efforts to capture the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, resulting in heavy casualties on both sides.[0] However, in early May, Prigozhin published a video online depicting him standing in front of numerous dead bodies and shouting obscenities at Russia's top military leadership, demanding they provide his forces with the ammo they need after months of heavy losses.[1] Wagner Group subsequently announced their withdrawal from Bakhmut, and the Russian authorities vowed to give Prigozhin the equipment he demands.[2] Despite everything, it seems that the mercenaries have already left some of their posts in the vicinity of Bakhmut.[2]

The story of a Russian soldier named Zaruyar Tetragrammaton Ar-Rakhim, who went by the name Alexey Kamilov until August 2022, sheds light on the situation.[2] Tetragrammaton was a member of a unit in the Russian Defense Ministry that was intended to take the place of Wagner Group near Bakhmut.[2] However, Wagner fighters in the area mistook him for a Ukrainian intelligence officer and subjected him to hours of torture and abuse.[2]

Prigozhin has accused the Russian Defense Ministry and Moscow's military command of failing to provide adequate ammunition supplies to the Wagner forces on the frontline.[0] In the past, he has made threats to remove his fighters from Bakhmut and has restated his grievances regarding the lack of shells in a distinct statement on Saturday.[0] “I have to withdraw what's left of Wagner to lick our wounds.[1] Because without enough weapons and ammo they are doomed to die without a cause,” Prigozhin said in a statement, adding that he had decided to make the announcement public as the Kremlin had ignored his previous letters and demands.[1]

In a separate statement addressed to Gerasimov, Shoigu's ministry, and President Vladimir Putin as supreme commander, he said: “On May 10, 2023, we are obliged to transfer positions in the settlement of Bakhmut to units of the defence ministry and withdraw the remains of Wagner to logistics camps to lick our wounds.[3] These were someone's fucking fathers![4] And someone's sons!” In the video, Prigozhin was seen fuming. “And those bastards who don't give us ammunition will fucking eat their guts in fucking hell!”[4]

Prigozhin has been consistently voicing his disapproval of Russian officials, alleging that they do not provide enough support to those in the front-line.[3] Prigozhin's recent statement asserted that Gen Sergei Surovikin, who oversaw Russia's military operations in Ukraine from October to January, had been selected to facilitate communication between Russia's conventional military and the Wagner group of mercenaries.[5] Prigozhin announced on Sunday that the Ukraine-based mercenaries would be supplied with ample ammunition and weaponry to sustain their combat operations.[0]

Earlier this week, the United States approximated that 20,000 Russian soldiers had lost their lives while serving in Ukraine since December, and an additional 80,000 had sustained injuries.[5] The situation in Bakhmut is just one example of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, where both Russian and Ukrainian forces have sustained heavy casualties. The actions of paramilitary groups like Wagner highlight the challenges of controlling and directing these forces, as they often operate with their own goals and agendas. The situation in Ukraine remains complex, and it is unclear how it will develop in the coming months.

0. “Prigozhin's High Stakes Putin Play May Be Working” Newsweek, 8 May. 2023, https://www.newsweek.com/yevgeny-prigozhin-vladimir-putin-wagner-group-bakhmut-chechnya-ramzan-kadyrov-1798922

1. “Massive split in Russian military forces as Wagner vows to quit Bakhmut on May 10” POLITICO Europe, 5 May. 2023, https://www.politico.eu/article/massive-split-russia-military-forces-wagner-vow-quit-bakhmut-ukraine-war-yevgeny-prigozhin/

2. “Bruised kidneys and chemical burns” Meduza, 9 May. 2023, https://meduza.io/en/feature/2023/05/09/bruised-kidneys-and-chemical-burns

3. “Wagner boss blasts Russian officials in expletive-laden video” Al Jazeera English, 5 May. 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/5/5/wagner-boss-blasts-russian-officials-in-expletive-laden-video

4. “Wagner Boss Makes Major Battlefield Exit After Grisly Video” The Daily Beast, 5 May. 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/wagner-boss-yevgeny-prigozhin-makes-major-battlefield-exit-after-grisly-video

5. “Yevgeny Prigozhin: Wagner boss ‘promised ammunition' after retreat threat” BBC, 7 May. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-65516633

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