KYIV, May 7 (Reuters) – Russian mercenary group Wagner appeared on Sunday to drop plans to withdraw from Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, saying Moscow had promised it more weapons and suggesting it would could continue its assault on what Russia sees as a step forward. stone to other cities in the Donbass region.
Elsewhere, Ukrainian and Russian media reported explosions in Russian-occupied Crimea, and the Russian Defense Ministry said its air defenses detected and destroyed 22 Ukrainian drones over the Black Sea overnight.
Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said on Friday that his fighters, who led a months-long assault on Bakhmut, would withdraw after being starved of ammunition and suffering “unnecessary and unjustified” casualties.
But in an audio message posted on his Telegram channel on Sunday, he said: “We were promised as much ammunition and weapons as we need to continue operations. We were promised everything we needed to prevent the enemy from cutting us off (supplies) will be deployed.
A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman did not respond to a request for comment after Prigozhin’s latest statement.
Russian officials have repeatedly sought to allay concerns that their frontline forces have not received adequate supplies. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday, referring to the Russian military as a whole, that it had “received the sufficient amount of ammunition” to effectively inflict damage on enemy forces.
On the Ukrainian side, Serhiy Cherevaty, spokesman for Ukraine’s Eastern Command, said in response to questions from Reuters about Prigozhin’s comments that Russian forces had “more than enough” ammunition.
He said Prigozhin’s comments were intended to distract from the heavy losses Wagner suffered by throwing so many troops into battle.
“Eight hundred and eighty-nine artillery strikes in the last 24 hours in the Bakhmut region – is it a thirst for ammunition?”
Prigozhin’s threat to withdraw from Bakhmut highlights the pressure Russian forces are under as Ukraine makes final preparations for a counter-offensive backed by thousands of Western-donated armored vehicles and freshly trained troops .
The Battle of Bakhmut was the most intense of the conflict, costing thousands of lives on both sides in months of bitter warfare.
Ukrainian troops have been pushed back in recent weeks but hung on in the city to inflict as many Russian casualties as possible ahead of Kiev’s planned big push against invading forces along the 1,000 km (620 km) front line. miles).
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address that nine Ukrainian explosives experts who were involved in mine clearance were killed in a single Russian attack in the southern Kherson region on Saturday.
“They were… restoring security to our people,” Zelenskiy said.
Ukraine’s Armed Forces General Staff said on Sunday that the Russians continued to remove what it described as looted goods from frontline settlements in occupied areas of the Zaporizhzhia region under the guise of capturing civilians.
In Mykolaiv, Governor Vitaliy Kim said in a social media post that a building and territory belonging to an unspecified company was damaged overnight after Russian long-range bombers targeted his southern region with five Kh-22 cruise missiles.
In the eastern region of Kharkiv, at least five people were injured after an S-300 missile hit a parking lot in the town of Balakliya, Governor Oleh Synyehubov said.
In the southern city of Kherson, which Ukraine liberated last November but is under constant Russian attack, six people have been killed in the past 24 hours in various strikes, Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said.
Russian forces have stepped up long-range missile strikes on civilian targets and infrastructure in recent days.
The nightly strikes coincided with Ukrainian and Russian media reports of multiple explosions in Russian-occupied Crimea.
Baza, a Telegram channel linked to Russian law enforcement, reported that Ukraine sent a series of drones over the peninsula, with Russian air defense shooting down at least one over the port of Sevastopol.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the information.
Strikes against Russian-held targets have intensified over the past two weeks, particularly in Crimea. Ukraine, without confirming any role in these attacks, claims that the destruction of enemy infrastructure is preparation for a planned ground assault.
Reporting by Dan Peleschuk and Lidia Kelly; Written by Dan Peleschuk and Lidia Kelly; Editing by Hugh Lawson
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