The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force has threatens to withdraw his troops from the key battle for Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine as casualty rates mount.
In an Interview with Russian military blogger Semyon Pegov published on Saturday, Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin said losses in Bakhmut are five times higher than necessary because of a lack of artillery ammunition
Prigozhin said he has written to Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu asking for ammunition as soon as possible, else they would be forced to either withdraw or die.
He warned that the withdrawal of some fighters from Bakhmut would be likely, meaning that 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.
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.
Russian forces have been trying for 10 months to punch their way into the shattered remains of what was once a city of 70,000. The battle of attrition for Bakhmut has become known as the “meat grinder” due to its high casualty rates.
In the meantime, Ukraine’s military authorities say Russian forces have been unable to cut their supply routes to the front-line city.
Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for Ukrainian troops in the east, said in an interview with the local news website said the supply of provisions, weapons and ammunition is secured.
He added Ukrainian forces were maintaining their positions along the road and engineers had already laid new roads to Bakhmut.