Leader of Russian mercenary group threatens to withdraw forces

 May 7, 2023

Reuters reports that the leader of Russia's top mercenary group has threatened to remove his fighters from Bakhmut, Ukraine. 

If true, this could be bad news for Russia in its ongoing war with Ukraine. Bakhmut is a particularly important battleground. Fighting there has been ongoing for months with Russia being unable to capture the city - although it has come close.

Leading the fight in Bakhmut, from the Russian side, is the Wagner Group, Russia's top mercenary group. And, the Wagner Group is led by Yevgeny Prigozhin.

In recent days, Prigozhin has released a series of videos criticizing Russian leadership over its handling of the Russia-Ukraine war. He additionally released a message threatening to withdraw the Wagner Group from the battlefield.

"I will pull out"

In the videos, Prigozhin particularly took aim at Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov.

"For the tens of thousands killed and wounded, they will bear responsibility in front of their mothers and children, I will achieve that," Prigozhin said.

He added, “their unprofessionalism is destroying tens of thousands of Russian guys and that is unforgivable."

Prigozhin's withdrawal threat came in a statement via Telegram.

He wrote:

On May 10, 2023 we will have to hand over our positions in Bakhmut to units of the defence ministry and withdraw Wagner units to rear camps to lick our wounds. I will pull out Wagner units from Bakhmut because, in the absence of ammunition, they are facing a senseless death

Will he actually withdraw?

It is worth noting that this is not the first time that Prigozhin has released a statement threatening to withdraw his mercenary forces from the Russia-Ukraine battle. And, he has not pulled out yet. So, there is the possibility that this is just a ploy by Prigozhin.

But - perhaps significantly - this is the first time that Prigozhin, in one of these statements, went after Russian leadership in this manner.

Whether this means that Prigozhin is getting closer to actually withdrawing the Wagner Group from Ukraine is unclear.

As of Friday, reports from the battlefront indicated that Russian troops are still working to capture the city of Bakhmut. The Russians, in particular, are looking to capture the city before May 9, which is the day when Russia holds World War II Victory Day celebrations.

Ukraine, for its part, is expecting the fighting to intensify as May 9 approaches. Ukrainian forces are preparing themselves accordingly.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
© 2015 - 2024 Conservative Institute. All Rights Reserved.