Ukraine ‘are already breaking through Russian lines in Bakhmut’, Wagner chief admits


The chief of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin has admitted that Ukrainian forces have counter-attacked Russian positions around Bakhmut – as the warlord mocked Kremlin defence minister Sergei Shoigu.

‘The situation on the flanks is shaping up according to the worst predicted scenario,’ Prigozhin said, signalling fresh misery for Putin‘s troops. 

‘Those territories, which were taken with the blood and lives of our comrades-in-arms for many months, every day, by tens or hundreds of metres are now being thrown almost without a fight by those [Russian army soldiers] who are supposed to hold our flanks.’

Prigozhin then directly addressed the long-suffering Shoigu.

‘Given your super long experience, please can you come to Bakhmut?’ he asked sarcastically, poking fun at the defence minister’s civilian background in engineering.

President Volodymyr Zelensky sought to manage expectations around the pushback in Bakhmut, telling reporters the long-awaited Ukrainian counter-offensive was yet to begin in earnest and declaring: ‘We still need a bit more time.’

But Prigozhin retorted that Zelensky was being deceptive: ‘When Volodymyr Zelensky said [the counter-offensive] hasn’t started yet, he was economical with the truth.

‘It is going full steam ahead – Ukrainian units are attacking successfully.’

Ukraine’s deputy defence minister Hanna Maylar added later Friday: ‘The enemy has suffered great losses of manpower. Our defence forces advanced two kilometres (around one mile) near Bakhmut. We did not lose a single position in Bakhmut this week.’

Ukrainian official Anton Gerashchenko posted a video on social media which appeared to show Russian soldiers hastily retreating amid Ukrainian artillery fire

Ukrainian official Anton Gerashchenko posted a video on social media which appeared to show Russian soldiers hastily retreating amid Ukrainian artillery fire

Pro-Russian military blogger Anatoliy Shariy shared an image of a Russian position that had been deserted and retaken by Ukrainian soldiers near Bakhmut

Pro-Russian military blogger Anatoliy Shariy shared an image of a Russian position that had been deserted and retaken by Ukrainian soldiers near Bakhmut

Moscow has since denied the reports of Ukrainian counter-offensives in Bakhmut and said the frontline is under control.

‘Statements circulated by individual Telegram channels about ”defence breakthroughs” that took place in different areas along the line of military contact do not correspond to reality,’ the Russian defence ministry said in a Telegram post. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov meanwhile told Russian news service TASS that the military operation in the east of Ukraine was ‘very difficult’ but ‘certain goals have been achieved’.  

But a series of pro-Russian military bloggers have corroborated Prigozhin’s assessment of the battlefield.

Pro-Kremlin Ukrainian blogger Anatoliy Shariy complained that Putin’s forces were retreating and deserting their posts rather than fighting to hold their positions. 

He highlighted that units of the 9th motorised rifle regiment of the Russian army ‘escaped from the forest, abandoning the fortified area and reopening the road to Bakhmut for the Ukrainian Armed Forces’.

At Bogdanovka, the 9th motorised rifle regiment ‘ran away, abandoning a significant section of the front with an area of hundreds of metres’, he said.

‘Why do we need a large-scale counteroffensive, if during local clashes the servicemen of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation run away?’

Semen Pegov, a military blogger covering the conflict for the War Gonzo Telegram channel, said: ‘At the moment, our units are trying to push [Ukrainians] back – they have not yet managed to gain a foothold, the progress was relatively insignificant.

‘However, alarm bells ringing here… [Prigozhin] is right – we can assume that the counter-offensive has begun.’

The owner of the Wagner group raged over the difficult situation in Bakhmut and sarcastically asked Sergei Shoigu to go there and evaluate the situation

The owner of the Wagner group raged over the difficult situation in Bakhmut and sarcastically asked Sergei Shoigu to go there and evaluate the situation

57th Ukrainian brigade shoots Grad missile systems, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Bakhmut, Ukraine May 9, 2023

57th Ukrainian brigade shoots Grad missile systems, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Bakhmut, Ukraine May 9, 2023

Smoke erupts following a shell explosion, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine in this screengrab obtained from a handout video released on May 7, 2023

Smoke erupts following a shell explosion, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine in this screengrab obtained from a handout video released on May 7, 2023

This still from GoPro footage shows Ukrainian troops advancing through devastated countryside close to Bakhmut towards Russian positions

This still from GoPro footage shows Ukrainian troops advancing through devastated countryside close to Bakhmut towards Russian positions

Anatoliy Shariy

Anastasia Kashevarova

Pro-Kremlin military bloggers Anatoliy Shariy and Anastasia Kashevarova were two of several who corroborated Prigozhin’s assertion that Ukrainian troops had launched successful counter-attacks in Bakhmut

The US-based Institute for the Study of War released a battlefield update this morning which seemed to echo the sentiments of Russian war bloggers.

‘Ukrainian forces continued to conduct successful but localised counter-attacks around Bakhmut on May 11, likely constraining Russian offensive efforts.

‘The deployment of low-quality Russian forces on the flanks around Bakhmut suggests that the Russian MoD has largely abandoned the aim of encircling a significant number of Ukrainian forces there,’ the Institute concluded.

Meanwhile, Russian war correspondent Anastasia Kashevarova said Putin’s troops were incurring unnecessary losses because they were failing to communicate properly with Wagner battalions, accusing them of petty squabbling even on the frontlines.

‘Wagner withdrew from that flank, because they had a breakthrough in another place, and the 72nd brigade did not know this. The 72nd had artillery there, but there were no assault troops. And the Ukrainians just went there.’

She posted: ‘I have unwound such a tangle of squabbles… everyone is offended with each other.

‘Wagner, they say, tried to contact the 72nd [Russian regular army] brigade, but they did not want to interact.

The 72nd has a ban from the defence ministry on working with [Wagner] – and Wagner are too proud.

‘[It’s hard] to wade through all this whining.’



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