Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin has bemoaned that Vladimir Putin’s troops are fleeing in droves from the city of Bakhmut. The fight for the city in eastern Ukraine has dominated the war in recent months. On Friday, the Russian defence ministry admitted that some of its troops have fallen back and regrouped “to more advantageous defensive positions.”
The defence ministry insisted that the “general situation in the special military operation zone is under control.”
However, Mr Prigozhin bluntly called these claims “lying” in a video address shared on Telegram earlier today.
He called out Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov, who serves as the chief spokesperson for the Russian Defence Ministry, by name.
He said: “Comrade Konashenkov lied: there was no tactical retreat, there was simply a flight.”
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Mr Prigozhin continued: “What Konashenkov said, unfortunately, is called fleeing, not regrouping.
“Capturing Bakhmut means nothing because the flanks are crumbling, the front is failing.
“These columns of Russian troops leave the territories that we took with blood in disgrace.
“It will lead to global tragedy for Russia.”
Footage shared on social media showed Russian forces abandoning positions along the northern Bakhmut flank, after coming under fire from Ukrainian artillery.
Both Ukrainian and Russian observers have suggested that Ukrainian forces were launching an attack near Soledar as well as an attempt to encircle Bakhmut.
Russians on the frontline with the military said that “the situation is difficult” for the Russian soldiers as many expect Ukrainians to “break through the first line of defense”.
The Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think tank, echoed this in an assessment published Thursday, stating that Ukrainian forces likely broke through some Russian lines in counterattacks near Bakhmut.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on Friday that Ukraine’s military had advanced two kilometres in the direction of Bakhmut.
Ms Maliar said: “The enemy suffered great losses of manpower. Our defenders advanced 2km in the Bakhmut sector.
“We did not lose a single position in Bakhmut this week.”
Bakhmut has been largely destroyed after holding a pre-war population of about 70,000.