Some Russian soldiers have fled their positions in Bakhmut and left a gap in the front line at the ruined but still partially Ukrainian-held city, the leader of Russia’s Wagner mercenary company, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in an address on May 9.
He also reiterated that if he does not receive ammunition, Wagner Group will abandon its positions in Bakhmut. Earlier, he said the mercenaries would pull out of Bakhmut on May 10 if supplies of ammunition were not sent to them.
"Yesterday we received a combat order stating that leaving our positions would be recognized as treason against the motherland," Prigozhin said.
“This was primarily an appeal to us. If there is no ammunition, we will leave the positions and ask the question: who is betraying the homeland? Probably the one who signed (the combat order).”
Prigozhin said that the same combat order stated that "we are obliged to provide the Wagner PMC grouping with everything absolutely necessary."
"Apparently, he made an emotional statement and this combat order; the person who signed it, was afraid that we would leave and come to him in Rostov," Prigozhin said, apparently referring to Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, who has his headquarters in the southern Russian city.
“But it is the Ukrainians who will come to him in Rostov if the front falls apart.”
Prigozhin said the Russian army was doing everything to make the "front crumble," and one of the Russian Defense Ministry's units fled from the flank, abandoning its positions.
"Today, one of the Defense Ministry's units fled from one of our flanks," he said.
“Having abandoned their positions, all of them fled and (left a gap in the) front almost two kilometers wide and 500 meters deep. Good thing that we were able to block it somehow.”
Prigozhin also argued that instead of fighting, the Russian army is constantly involved in intrigues.
"We have a Ministry of Intrigue instead of a Ministry of Defense, so our army is fleeing," he said.
“It's fleeing because 72 brigades today (May 9 - ed.) have frittered away three square kilometers, where I had about 500 people killed, because it was a strategic foothold. They just (ran away).”
Prigozhin said he was also concerned about the upcoming counter-offensive of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and said that the Ukrainian attack "will be on the ground, not on TV."
"There are meetings from dawn to dusk," he said.
“Nobody understands what the meetings are about. So far, the only meeting (topic) is how not to give Wagner (mercenary company) ammunition, how not to give weapons so that we can defend Russia and continue to storm Bakhmut and disrupt Ukraine's offensive.
“Today, Ukraine is pounding Belgorod Oblast – successfully pounding. People are not panicking, but they are very concerned. Why can't the state defend its country? Today, they are tearing up the flanks on the Bakhmut axis, regrouping in Zaporizhzhya (Oblast), and a counter-offensive will begin soon. They are quite clear that the counter-offensive will be on the ground, not on TV, because so far everyone in our country thinks that we need to celebrate the Victory Day."
Prigozhin said that the fact that Russian troops are fleeing is not a problem with the soldiers, but of those who gave them their orders.
Why Prigozhin speaks of "shell hunger"
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Armed Forces has explained why Prigozhin has been making statements about "shell hunger" in recent days.
The spokesman for the Eastern Group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Serhiy Cherevatyi, said on Ukrainian national television that the mercenary leader had taken on obligations that he was unable to fulfill.
"The main reason for Prigozhin's statements is that he has taken on military obligations, but is unable to fulfill them, including the capture of Bakhmut, and is making up this nonsense about a shell famine," Cherevatyi said.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces spokesman added that the Russian military opened fire 415 times on May 8, and 489 times on May 7.
Cherevatyi also emphasized that in fact, the main problem of Prigozhin is the constant destruction of personnel by the Ukrainian military. It is difficult to replenish these losses, as the Kremlin regime no longer gives the Wagner leader prisoners to add to his ranks.
"The government itself does not give it, and the prisoners are not very eager to leave, because they realize that it is a one-way ticket," Cherevatyi concluded.
Earlier, Wagner chief Prigozhin publicly demanded in an expletive-laden rant on video that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov provide his formation with ammunition. He threatened to withdraw his Wagner fighters from Bakhmut by May 10 if the ammunition was not forthcoming.
Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov, responded to this statement by accusing Prigozhin of washing dirty linen in public and said he was ready to send his "Akhmat" unit to Bakhmut to replace Wagner.
The Russians have been actively storming the city for around 10 months, but Ukrainian defenders continue to repel enemy attacks.
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