- Yevgeny Prigozhin says casualties in Bakhmut would be ‘five times fewer if we had more ammunition’.
BAKHMUT (Agencies): The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force threatens to withdraw his troops from the key battle for Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine as casualty rates mount while Ukraine’s military authorities say Russian forces have been unable to cut their supply routes to the front-line city.
Losses in Bakhmut are five times higher than necessary because of a lack of artillery ammunition, Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin said in an interview with Russian military blogger Semyon Pegov published on Saturday.
“Every day we have stacks of thousands of bodies that we put in coffins and send home,” Prigozhin said.
Prigozhin said he has written to Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu asking for ammunition as soon as possible.
“If the ammunition deficit is not replenished, we are forced – in order not to run like cowardly rats afterwards – to either withdraw or die,” he said.
The withdrawal of some fighters from Bakhmut would be likely, but he warned that this would mean the Russian front line would collapse elsewhere.
In an audio statement published on the Telegram messaging app account of his press service on Saturday evening, the Wagner boss said he had lost 94 fighters due to a lack of ammunition.
“It would have been five times fewer if we had more ammunition,” said Prigozhin, who has previously accused Russia’s regular armed forces of not giving his men the ammunition they need. He has also accused Russia’s top brass of betrayal.
A Ukrainian military spokesperson said on Saturday that Russian forces have been unable to cut off its supply lines to the Ukrainian defenders of Bakhmut.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington, DC-based think tank, reported the Wagner chief as stating that his forces have received 800 of the 4,000 shells per day that they had requested from Russia’s Ministry of Defence.
Prigozhin also said the long-awaited counteroffensive by Ukraine will begin before May 15 and he lamented that Russian forces are not hurrying to prepare for the expected onslaught, according to the institute.
“Prigozhin’s threat to withdraw from Bakhmut may also indicate that Prigozhin fears that the Russian positions in Bakhmut’s rear are vulnerable to counterattacks,” the institute said.