The Wagner Group founder, Yevgeny Prighozin, has reportedly started pulling his forces out of the Ukrainian city Bakhmut where intensive fighting has taken place for months. In a video published at 9.46 am (Ukraine time), the brutal leader said he was transferring Wagner positions to the regular Russian military.
In the video in his Telegram group, the Press service of Prigozhin, he said: “We are withdrawing the units from Bakhmut. From today at five in the morning, May 25 until June 1, most of the units will rebase to camps in the rear. We are handing our positions to the military.”
He said his men will “receive new combat missions” in the future.
However, in his last video, he said that “if the military faces hardships,” the Wagner mercenaries who were instrumental in the alleged capture of Bakhmut may stay in the city.
The leader proclaimed the capture of Bakhmut on Saturday following an intense nine months of fighting.
The figure stated by Prighozin contrasts with Moscow’s claim that only 6,000 of its troops had been killed in the war as of January.
If true, the 20,000 death toll, suffered in just 10 months, exceeds the official Soviet losses sustained during a decade of war in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989.
Prigozhin also previously said his fighters were exhausted and said his men were leaving for “field camps” to train and rest.
He added that the Russian defence ministry will be responsible for Bakhmut.
The Ukrainians dispute Wagner’s claim that they have taken over the city.
On Monday (22 May), Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, claimed Ukrainian troops still had control of buildings in the southwest of the city and said troops were working on flanking the city.
She said: “Yesterday, the Ukrainian Armed Forces retained control of certain industrial facilities and private houses area in the southwestern area, the area where the aircraft [monument] is.”
The aircraft monument, a Soviet MiG-17 fighter jet atop a high concrete pedestal, is located in Druzhba Square in the southwest of the city.
Source : https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1774147/wagner-group-withdrawal-bakhmut-ukraine