Russia’s Wagner chief warns of frontline collapse if forced to retreat from Bakhmut
March 6 (Reuters) - The founder of Russia's Wagner mercenary force said his troops now tightening their grip on the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut were being deprived of ammunition and if they were forced to retreat the entire front would collapse.
“If Wagner retreats from Bakhmut now, the whole front will collapse,” Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a video published over the weekend. “The situation will not be sweet for all military formations protecting Russian interests.”
Reuters could not independently verify when and where the video was recorded. The footage was published on a Telegram channel that has been disseminating Prigozhin news and has associated itself with the Wagner Group. The video was not published on Prigozhin’s usual press service channel.
But on Sunday he complained that most of the ammunition that his forces were promised by Moscow in February had not yet been shipped.
“For now, we are trying to figure out the reason: is it just ordinary bureaucracy or a betrayal,” Prigozhin said on his usual press service Telegram channel.
The mercenary chief regularly criticises Russia’s defence chiefs and top generals. Last month, he accused Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and others of “treason” for withholding supplies of munitions to his militia.
In a nearly four-minute video published on the Wagner Orchestra Telegram channel on Saturday, Prigozhin said his troops were worried that Moscow wanted to set them up as possible scapegoats if Russia lost the war.
“If we retreat, then we will go down in history forever as people who have taken the main step towards losing the war,” Prigozhin said.
“This is exactly the problem with ammunition hunger.”
Speaking seemingly from a bunker, Prigozhin said in the video that his troops would wonder whether they were being “set up” for defeat by the country’s top brass or maybe even by someone “higher”.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne and Nick Starkov in Kyiv; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Stephen Coates)