Prigozhin Praises Ukrainian Defenders in Bakhmut Ahead of Wagner Withdrawal

Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin lauded Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut in a Telegram video message on Saturday after previously vowing to withdraw his troops from the city.

In his message, Prigozhin said he was standing in front of the Donetsk town fought over for months between Russian and Ukrainian troops, which he insisted “will be taken.” He added that Ukraine was introducing up to 600 troops per day, which is “about the same number of people killed daily.”

“The enemy does not spare artillery ammunition,” he said in the message reported by Russian state news agency, TASS. Prigozhin has repeatedly denounced the Russian defense ministry for not providing him and his paramilitary unit with the resources he wants.

“A sufficient number of various foreign-made armored vehicles and a large number of drones have appeared,” he added. “The enemy is well equipped, well trained, acts in a coordinated manner and resists with dignity, so we move on, everything is blazing, burning.” He also described on Saturday how there was ceaseless artillery fire “from morning until night.”

Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin at the Kremlin in Moscow in 2017. Wagner Group founder Prigozhin lauded Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut in a Telegram video message on Saturday after previously vowing to withdraw his troops from the city.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s armed forces shared video on social media on Saturday that they said showed Russian forces’ use of phosphorus weapons in Bakhmut in a move that sparked condemnation.

In an earlier audio post on Telegram on Friday, Prigozhin said that “despite the heavy shell famine, the Wagner units advanced.” He added that “we still have a few opportunities to advance into Bakhmut until the end of the day on May 9,” which is Victory Day marking the Soviet role in the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

Newsweek has emailed the Russian and Ukrainian defense ministries for comment.

Earlier this week, Prigozhin said he would withdraw his troops from Bakhmut due to a lack of ammunition, which has been a continual peeve for the businessman who once had close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a video, Prigozhin said that his troops are “doomed to a senseless death” without the requisite military resources in a plea, which the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said showed “palpable desperation.” The battle for Bakhmut has resulted in heavy casualties and deaths for both sides, particularly among Wagner forces and recruited convicts.

The U.S.-based think tank also said that the Russian defense ministry had “deprioritized” the offensive in Bakhmut for the anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive, which is expected in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, one of Prigozhin’s allies, Russian politician and writer Zakhar Prilepin, was taken to the hospital with injuries after what has been reported as an assassination attempt on Saturday. Prigozhin had praised Prilepin for his support, prior to his car being blown up in Nizhny Novgorod, in an incident that killed the politician’s driver.

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