- Ukraine says a Russian battalion has abandoned its positions in Bakhmut
- Mercenary commander Wagner says the Russian 72nd Brigade “fled”
- The Kremlin says the campaign is difficult, but it will take control of Bakhmut
May 11 (Reuters) – A Ukrainian unit said on Wednesday it had defeated a Russian battalion near the stronghold of Bakhmut, an incident that underscores the task the Kremlin faces as it carries out what it called a “very difficult” military operation.
The unit’s claims appear to back up comments by Yevgeny Prigozhin, commander of Wagner’s private army, who said on Tuesday that the Russian brigade had abandoned its positions at Bakhmut, Moscow’s main objective in its winter offensive and the scene of Europe’s bloodiest ground battles since. World War II.
Colonel General Oleksandr Sersky, who commands the Ukrainian ground forces, said that Russian units in some parts of Bakhmut had retreated up to two kilometers as a result of counterattacks. He did not elaborate.
Reuters could not independently confirm the situation on the ground. Wagner’s units led a months-long Russian assault on the eastern city, suffering heavy losses, but Ukrainian forces say the offensive has stalled.
“The special military operation is continuing. This is a very difficult operation and of course certain goals have been achieved within a year,” the new TASS news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as telling a Bosnian Serb television channel.
“We managed to defeat the Ukrainian military machine a bit,” Peskov said, citing Russian missile strikes in Ukraine. “This work will continue.”
Peskov said he had no doubts that Bakhmut “will be arrested and kept under control.” He also said the Russian campaign in eastern Ukraine was going slowly because Russia “is not waging war”.
“Waging war is quite another matter – it means the complete destruction of infrastructure, it means the complete destruction of cities,” he said. “We’re not doing this. We’re trying to preserve infrastructure and preserve human lives.”
Peskov’s comments did not address allegations that the Russian 72nd Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade had abandoned its positions on the southwestern outskirts of Bakhmut.
In a statement, the Ukrainian 3rd Separate Assault Brigade said: “It is official. Prigozhin’s report about the flight of the Russian 72nd Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade from near Pakhmut and ‘500 bodies’ of trailing Russians, is true.”
The Russian brigade usually consists of several thousand troops.
“Our army is fleeing. The 72nd Brigade overran three square kilometers this morning, where I lost about 500 men,” Prigozhin said on Tuesday, complaining that his forces had only received 10% of the shells they needed.
In a subsequent statement on social media, Prigozhin said Wagner’s forces had advanced 170 meters (530 feet). The Ukrainian forces are confined to an area of 2.25 square kilometers. (just under a square mile) and they were under pressure in the high-rise western areas.
Mercenary chief takes on the military
Prigozhin clashed with the Russian Ministry of Defense and expressed concerns about a promised Ukrainian counter-offensive to recapture territories occupied by Russia after the invasion began on February 24, 2022.
Ukrainian military analyst Roman Svetan said these successes
The vicinity of Bakhmut served as the beginning of the counterattack.
“We are the ones who initiated the moves to advance,” Svetan told Ukraine’s Radio Nevada. “We can say that the attack, which we had been expecting for at least six months, began about a week ago,” he added.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar wrote on Telegram that the pro-Kiev units had not lost any positions in Bakhmut on Wednesday.
Russian forces invaded Ukraine in what Moscow calls a special military operation and initially seized large swathes of territory, but Kiev’s forces retreated. Western officials estimate that more than 200,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded.
In his evening video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky named the 3rd brigade and referred to his report “On the flight of the Russian 72nd Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade from near Bakhmut”.
In Brussels, a senior NATO military official said the war would be an increasing battle between large numbers of poorly trained Russian forces with outdated equipment and a smaller Ukrainian force with better Western weaponry and training.
Admiral Robbauer, the Dutch officer who heads NATO’s Military Committee, noted that Russia was deploying T-54 tanks – an older model designed in the years after World War II.
In Washington, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said he authorized the first transfer of seized Russian assets for use in Ukraine.
Additional reporting by Tom Palmforth, Olena Harmash, Pavel Politiuk, David Leungren and Ron Popeski; Editing by Peter Graff, Alex Richardson, David Gregorio, and Diane Kraft
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