Russian mercenary group Wagner appeared to abandon plans to withdraw from the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut on Thursday, saying it had received promises of more weapons from Moscow and hinting it might continue its offensive, which Russia sees as a springboard. towards more cities in the Donbass region. .
Elsewhere, Ukrainian and Russian media reported explosions in Russian-controlled Crimea, and Russia’s Defense Ministry said air defenses had detected and destroyed 22 Ukrainian drones over the Black Sea overnight.
Wagner’s boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, had said last Friday that his fighters, who were leading the months-long offensive in Bakhmut, would withdraw due to lack of ammunition, resulting in “useless” casualties.
But in an audio message posted on his Telegram channel today, Prigozhin said: “We have been promised as many ammunition and weapons as we need to continue operations. They promised us that everything necessary would be developed to prevent the enemy from cutting us off (supplies).”
A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman did not respond to a request for comment following Prigozhin’s latest statement.
Russian officials have repeatedly tried to allay concerns that their frontline forces have not received adequate supplies. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday, referring to the Russian military as a whole, that it “has received a sufficient amount of ammunition” to deal an effective blow to enemy forces.
On the Ukrainian side, Serhii Tserevaty, a spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern command, said in response to questions from Reuters about Prigozhin’s comments that Russian forces have “more than enough” ammunition.
He said that Prigozhin’s comments were intended to divert attention from the heavy losses Wagner was taking by throwing so many soldiers into battle.
“Four hundred and eighty-nine artillery hits in the last 24 hours in the area around Bahamut, does that indicate ammunition starvation?”
Prigozhin’s threat to withdraw from Bakhmut shows the pressure Russian forces are under as Ukraine makes final preparations for a counter-offensive with the help of Western-donated armored vehicles and newly trained troops.
The battle for Bahamut is the fiercest of the conflict, costing thousands of lives on both sides.
Ukrainian troops have been forced back in recent weeks but are holding their ground in the city to inflict as many Russian casualties as they can before Kiev’s planned offensive against the invader’s forces along 1,000 kilometers of the line of attack. forehead.
The Ukrainian military said today that Russian forces are evacuating residents of the city that serves the Russian-controlled Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in eastern Ukraine.
In a morning briefing, Ukraine’s military staff said Russian forces were evacuating Russian passport holders to the port city of Berdyansk and the city of Primorsk, both on the shores of the Azov Sea.
In Mykolife, Governor Vitaly Kim said in a social media post that a building and land belonging to an unidentified company were damaged overnight when their area was hit by five Kh-22 cruise missiles.
Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ikhnat said on local television this morning that a total of six such missiles were launched at Ukraine overnight, but none hit their targets.
In the eastern Kharkiv region, at least five people were injured when an S-300 missile hit a parking lot in the city of Balakliya, Governor Oleh Sinyekhubov said.
Russian forces have intensified long-range missile attacks against civilian targets and infrastructure in recent days.
The overnight attacks coincided with reports in the Ukrainian and Russian media of multiple explosions in Russian-controlled Crimea.
Baza, a Telegram channel with links to Russian law enforcement, reported that Ukraine sent a series of drones over the peninsula and that Russian air defenses shot down at least one of them over the port of Sevastopol.
Reuters could not independently confirm these reports.
Strikes in Russian-occupied areas have intensified in the past two weeks, particularly in Crimea. Ukraine, without confirming whether it had any role in the attacks, says the destruction of enemy infrastructure is preparation for a planned ground attack.
In the southern city of Kherson, which was liberated by Ukraine last November but has been under constant Russian attacks, six people have been killed in the past 24 hours in various attacks, Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said.