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Wagner Group's withdrawal from front on 1 June will allow Ukraine's Armed Forces to launch counterattacks

Tuesday, 23 May 2023, 12:01
Wagner Group's withdrawal from front on 1 June will allow Ukraine's Armed Forces to launch counterattacks

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the financier of the Wagner Group, said that after 1 June, his mercenaries would not be present along the entire contact line in Ukraine for at least two months. The Institute for the Study of War believes that the Wagner private military company (PMC) may miss the main stages of Ukraine's counteroffensive.

Source: Yevgeny Prigozhin; ISW report

Details: On 20 May 2023, Prigozhin recorded a video against the backdrop of the ruins of Bakhmut, in which he declared the complete capture of the city by mercenaries of the Wagner PMC. According to Prigozhin, his mercenaries had been storming Bakhmut for 224 days, and in total they had been "fighting" for 427 days, so by 25 May they would "inspect" Bakhmut and then leave the city, handing it over to the Russian Ministry of Defence. 


On 21 May, Prigozhin's press service shared his response to the LIVE24 outlet regarding further assaults in the vicinity of Bakhmut.

Quote from Prigozhin: "Today [21 May – ed.], the Wagner PMC did not advance or seize any territories. We have captured all the territories we promised to seize to the last square centimetre. That is why we are not going to Khromove, and we are not going to Ivanivske. 

As I said, we are handing over our positions to the Ministry of Defence and leaving the war zone on 25 May. We have been fighting for 428 days. All tasks that will continue to be performed are carried out by the brave units of the Ministry of Defence.  

And we are going to the field camps. From 1 June, not a single Wagner PMC soldier will be on the contact line. Until we are re-formed, re-equipped and re-trained. All reports that the Wagner PMC is storming something will be fake in the next two months."

Details: Prigozhin said that if anything changes in the plans, he will inform everyone. 

The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) analysed Prigozhin's statements and pointed out that analysts had previously believed that Wagner's forces were unlikely to continue fighting after Bakhmut due to severe exhaustion and the culmination of their offensive capabilities.

Quote: "The two-month reconstitution period Prigozhin has announced could have Wagner forces sitting out key parts of the Ukrainian counter-offensive depending on when and how it begins."

Details: Ukrainian officials do not acknowledge the complete loss of Bakhmut and report fighting and a certain Ukrainian advance on the "flanks" – north and south of the destroyed city.

For example, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reported that fighting in Bakhmut was ongoing and that Russian forces had conducted unsuccessful ground attacks in the area of Hryhorivka (8 km northwest of Bakhmut) and south of Ivanivske (directly west of Bakhmut).

Ukraine's Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said that Ukrainian forces are holding positions in a fortified area in the west of Bakhmut and that fighting for the heights north and south of Bakhmut continues.

ISW has reported that Russia is focused on who to credit for the "victory" in Bakhmut and says little about the shaky Russian military situation in and around the city.

US analysts believe that Russian offensive efforts in the area "may have reached a culmination, giving Ukrainian forces the opportunity to launch further counterattacks on the already weakened flanks of Bakhmut".

Quote from ISW: "Wagner’s withdrawal in contact will also likely result in the Russian MoD manning defensive lines with poorly trained and provisioned conventional units similar to those that retreated from their positions while defending against Ukrainian counterattacks earlier in May. The Russian information space is largely ignoring these vulnerabilities, however."


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