Russian mercenaries vow to exit from Bakhmut city

Bakhmut: Russia’s main mercenary group announced plans on Friday to pull out of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, but Ukraine said the group’s fighters were reinforcing positions to try to seize it before Russia marks victory in World War Two day next week.
Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said his men had been starved of ammunition and would expect the army to take their place in Bakhmut next Wednesday, jeopardising what has long been Russia’s main target in its attempt to carve up its neighbour. ”My lads will not suffer useless and unjustified losses in Bakhmut without ammunition,” Prigozhin said in a video accompanying a written withdrawal announcement addressed to the head of general staff, the defence ministry, and President Vladimir Putin as supreme commander.
The announcement said “bureaucrats” had held back supplies despite knowing that Wagner’s target date to capture the city was May 9, when Moscow holds its World War Two Victory Day. “If, because of your petty jealousy, you do not want to give the Russian people the victory of taking Bakhmut, that’s your problem,” Prigozhin added in the video. State-owned RIA news agency later reported that Shoigu had instructed one of his deputy ministers to ensure troops had all the weapons they needed.
The battle for Bakhmut, which Russia sees as a stepping stone to other cities in Ukraine’s Donbas region still beyond its control, has been the most intense of the conflict, costing thousands of lives on both sides in months of grinding warfare.
Ukrainian troops have been pushed back in recent weeks but have clung on in the city to inflict as many Russian losses as possible ahead of Kyiv’s planned big push against the invading forces along the 1,000 km (620 mile) front line.
“Because of the lack of ammunition, our losses are increasing exponentially every day,” Prigozhin’s statement said. His fighters would be obliged to hand over their positions in Bakhmut to defence ministry units on May 10 and then withdraw to logistics camps “to lick our wounds”, he added.
It was not clear whether Prigozhin, who often makes impulsive comments, would go ahead with the withdrawal if his men got extra ammunition or if the dispute might even be a smokescreen.
A senior Ukrainian official said Russia was bringing Wagner mercenary fighters from along the front line to Bakhmut to capture it by Victory Day. –Agencies