Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesman for the Eastern group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, says the reason Yevgeny Prigozhin is claiming to have completely captured Bakhmut is because the Wagner Group leader intends to withdraw its mercenaries from the ruined city, which may be surrounded by Ukrainian defenders, as soon as possible.
Source: Serhii Cherevatyi, speaking to Free Radio
Details: On 20 May, Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin posted a video filmed outside the railway station building in the centre of Bakhmut in which he claimed that his mercenaries had completely captured the city and that on 25 May they would hand over its "defence" to soldiers of the Russian Ministry of Defence and leave.
The Ministry of Defence of Ukraine has denied that Bakhmut has been captured: although the situation in the city is "critical", Ukrainian soldiers control certain sites.
Cherevatyi also assured his audience that the Ukrainian defenders hold a number of buildings in Bakhmut.
Quote from Cherevatyi: "The fighting continues, we are holding a number of buildings in Bakhmut…
We’ve actually knocked out his [Prigozhin’s – ed.] very powerful group. It is close to destruction.
You understand that he is saying he’s going to withdraw his troops and he’s taken Bakhmut. That's all it says. ‘The guy said he’d do it and he did it’, and then do whatever you want as long as you let me go. [He’s running away – ed.] with his tail between his legs because he lost his best people.
In fact, his Wagner Group is broken."
- Yevgeny Prigozhin had complained about a lack of ammunition to the Russian authorities and threatened to withdraw his mercenaries from Bakhmut after 10 May or hand over their positions to Ramzan Kadyrov’s forces, but later he changed his mind and did not withdraw the Wagnerites from the city.
- Prigozhin later said that the Russian Defence Ministry had promised the Wagnerites the amount of ammunition they needed.
- On 9 May, the mercenaries’ leader also said that the Defence Ministry had threatened to deem the Wagnerites’ potential departure from Bakhmut as high treason.
- On 10 May, Prigozhin stated that the Wagner Group had been forced to hand over the "flanks" to servicemen from the Russian Ministry of Defence and bemoaned the "failure of the flanks."