Wagner mercenary group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said his forces have begun pulling out of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut to hand responsibility to the Russian army.
(Bloomberg) — Wagner mercenary group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said his forces have begun pulling out of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut to hand responsibility to the Russian army.
Days after he claimed to have taken the city following months of intense fighting, a video posted on Prigozhin’s Telegram channel Thursday showed him in military fatigues talking to troops on a tank about the withdrawal that he said would be completed by June 1.
“We’ll have a rest, get prepared and then we’ll get new orders,” Prigozhin said, adding that Wagner’s positions would be turned over to regular Russian army troops. “Leave them soap, take your toothbrushes.”
Russian forces have begun to replace Wagner fighters on the edges of the city, though the mercenaries remain at positions inside Bakhmut, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on Telegram. Russia continues artillery shelling in an attempt to slow Ukrainian advances around the devastated city, she said.
Prigozhin had previously said his troops would pull out of Bakhmut. The withdrawal comes after he criticized the results of President Vladimir Putin’s war goals in an interview published Wednesday in which he also accused defense officials of leaving Russia unprotected following an incursion by attackers who crossed from Ukraine.
Russian Wagner Chief Blasts Outcome of Putin’s Ukraine War Goals
In a separate video post, Prigozhin held talks on improving border defense with a group of men he said were from Russian regions bordering Ukraine. He reiterated his belief that Russia should carry out a full-scale mobilization for the war and said he would send proposals to Putin.
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