Wagner Chief Threatens To Quit Bakhmut Unless His Men Get More Munitions

The head of Wagner Group and Russia's defense ministry have continued their public spat over war strategy and the mercenary firm's role in Ukraine operations. 

On Sunday Wagner's outspoken chief Yevgeny Prigozhin threatened to withdraw his fighters from the strategic eastern city of Bakhmut, where fighting has raged for several months, at a time Russian forces control something like eighty to ninety percent of the city.

"I am appealing to Sergei Shoigu with a request to issue ammunition immediately," he said in reference to Russia's defense minister. "Now if this is refused … I deem it necessary to inform the commander-in-chief about the existing problems, and to make a decision regarding the feasibility of continuing to station units in the settlement of Bakhmut, given the current shortage of ammunition," Prigozhin warned.

By many accounts, Wagner has spearheaded successful operations in Donetsk, especially in the capture of nearby Soledar, which created the necessary momentum to control most of Bakhmut, though Ukraine has still committed to the wrecked city's defense.

Prigozhin is now saying his supplies have dwindled to the point his forces can only sustain operations for a mere days longer. "Do we go on with our assaults or not? Do we stay or go?" he said, but still vowed to fight "until the very last round of ammunition."

On Monday he followed with a video post to his Telegram channel, saying he needs at least 300 tonnes of artillery shells each day in order to take the city. "Three hundred tonnes a day is 10 cargo containers – not a lot at all … But we are being given no more than a third of that." 

Prigozhin has been charging the regular military command with "betraying" his fighters by withholding ammunition, in an ongoing spat which became public with the Russian seizure of Soledar. A Wagner statement at the time declared victory over the city for itself, but controversially didn't acknowledge the role of the regular military. The rift has increasingly been out in the open since then.

For this reason, Russian generals might actually welcome Prigozhin taking a backseat - though a full withdrawal of Wagner forces from Bakhmut could prove a devastating setback for the Russian side, if he were to actually go through with it.

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