Ukrainian War: Wagner boss claims his mercenaries ceded control of Bakhmut to Russian regular troops | world news
The leader of the Wagner Group said his forces had started to withdraw from Bakhmut and were handing over control to the Russian military.
It comes days after Yevgeny Prigozhin said mercenaries from his private army captured the town in eastern Ukraine.
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The millionaire and longtime ally of Vladimir Putin said in a video posted on Telegram that the handover will be completed by June 1.
There was no immediate comment from the Russian Department of Defense.
It was not possible to verify whether Wagner’s forces began to withdraw from the heavily damaged city.
On Wednesday, the Ukrainian General Staff said heavy fighting continued in Bakhmut after a nine-month battle, which killed tens of thousands of people.
Ukraine The deputy defense minister said Thursday that Wagner’s units had been replaced by regular troops in the suburbs but Wagner’s fighters remained in the center of the city.
Ukrainian forces still have a foothold in the southwestern outskirts, Hanna Maliar said.
A victory for Wagner at Bakhmut would be a much-needed boost for Mr Putin after his invasion lost momentum.
Ukraine’s top presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Ukraine’s long-awaited counter-offensive was already underway, saying it should not be anticipated as a “one-off event” starting “at a specific time on a day. specific”.
He said on Twitter that “dozens of different actions aimed at destroying the Russian occupation forces” had “taken place yesterday, are taking place today and will continue tomorrow.”
Mr Prigozhin is in a long-running feud with Moscow, and during the 15-month war he repeatedly berated Russian military leaders, accusing them of incompetence and failing to adequately supply his troops.
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Wagner’s involvement in Bakhmut’s capture elevated Mr. Prigozhin’s position, which he used to air his personal views on the war.
“Prigozhin (…) uses the perception that Wagner is responsible for Bakhmut’s capture to argue for an absurd level of influence over the Russian war effort in Ukraine,” according to the Institute for the Study of the war.
His frequent critical comments about Russia’s military performance are unusual under Mr Putin’s censorship regime.
His latest statement on Bakhmut came a day after he again broke with the Kremlin line on Ukraine.
He said his aim to demilitarize the country had backfired, acknowledged that Russian troops had killed civilians and agreed with Western estimates that he had lost more than 20,000 men in the battle for the city. .