Ukraine Isn’t Buying Wagner Boss’s Tirade About Pulling Out Of Bakhmut

Ukraine’s Armed Forces are not buying into the head of the Wagner mercenary group’s emotional screed threatening to pull out of Bakhmut next week due to a lack of ammunition. In an impassioned address apparently delivered near the battlefield, Yevgeny Prigozhin said his troops were thrown into the “Bakhmut Meat Grinder” and then abandoned by “near-military bureaucrats” who cut off the ammunition flow and “sit and shake their fat bellies and think that they will go down in history as winners.”

But Ukraine’s military is chalking Prigozhin’s threat up to bluster.

“The Wagnerites will simply not be allowed to leave the city because [Yevgeny] Prigozhin does not decide anything here,” Serhiy Cherevaty, spokesman for the Eastern Group of Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, told the Ukrainian Ukrainska Pravda news agency Friday.

Cherevaty was responding to a statement issued earlier in the day by Prigozhin that he will pull his troops out of Bakhmut on May 10, the day after Russia’s May 9 Victory Day festivities. It was just the latest in a series of fiery complaints the Wagner boss has made about being shorted on ammunition. On Monday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that about 10,000 Wagner troops have been killed just since December.

Standing in front of a group of dozens of his troops, he said he was going to turn over military operations in the devastated Donetsk Oblast city to Russia’s Defense Ministry. He vocalized a memo he sent to Russian military leadership.

“On March 16 [2022], when the [so-called special military operation] went wrong, we were asked to help,” he said. “On March 19, units arrived from Africa and immediately went into battle.”

Prigozhin said his troops “entered the most difficult place, the center of the Popasnaya fortified area, and by May 9, 2022, we captured the settlement. Then, in order to save the army, which shamefully fled from Izyum and Krasny Liman, they occupied the front line for more than 130 kilometers and held back the onslaught of the enemy.”

Destroyed Russian military equipment in the center of Izyum, Ukraine, on September 14, 2022. (Photo by Wojciech Grzedzinski/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“On October 8, in order to give the army a break, in order to pull all the forces on themselves, they launched the operation ‘Bakhmut Meat Grinder,’” Prigozhin said. ”They showed success and a good result,” sparking envy “from some figures, near-military bureaucrats from the Ministry of Defense…”

Prigozhin said that Wagner troops “received no more than 30% of the needs, so our losses were much higher than they should have been. A month ago they stopped giving us ammunition and we get no more than 10%.”

The mercenary group was “going to capture Bakhmut by May 9. But seeing this, the near-military bureaucrats actually stopped all deliveries from May 1. They sit and shake their fat bellies and think that they will go down in history as winners.”

“I officially inform the Chief of the General Staff, the Minister of Defense, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief: my guys will not bear losses in Bakhmut without ammunition, useless and unjustified. From May 10 we leave Bakhmut.”

“We have 2.5 kilometers left to take out of 45. But if, because of your petty envy, you don’t want to give victory to the Russians, that’s your problem.”

“We are waiting for an order to leave Bakhmut. Until the 9th, despite the fact that we are almost out of ammunition, we will remain in Bakhmut so that on this sacred holiday we will not shame the brilliance of Russian weapons. Then we will go to the rear camps.”

“We will wait until the people of Russia need us again. I think this is about to happen. Because you are not able to manage what you have been put on.”

Prigozhin’s statement Friday follows another dramatic video plea he made the day before, standing in front of rows of dead Wagner fighters, calling out Russian Defense Minister and General of the Army Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, the Russian army chief of the general staff, by name for not providing ammunition.

“Shoigu! Gerasimov! Where are the fucking shells? he ranted.

Shoigu on Friday issued a response to these outbursts Friday during a readiness inspection of the Southern Military District in Ukraine.

He instructed Colonel General A. Kuzmenkov to “keep under special control the issues of continuous and rhythmic supply of the groups of troops in the areas of the special military operation with all the necessary weapons and military equipment,” according to the Russian MoD.

Asked by a news outlet to respond to Shoigu, Prigozhin on his Telegram channel said he had yet to receive a response to his earlier memo about leaving Bakhmut.

But none of this Wagner drama ultimately matters, said Cherevaty, the Ukrainian military spokesman.

“Prigozhin also lies about the lack of shells, which allegedly kills his people,” he said. “In fact, the Wagner militants are suffering enormous losses due to the successful actions of the Ukrainian Defense Forces.”

Besides, “the Wagnerites have plenty of shells – in the last 24 hours alone, they hit the positions of Ukrainian troops 520 times,” said Cherevaty. 

“But what Prigozhin and his PMCs really lack is people. According to a representative of the Eastern Group of Forces, the prisoners no longer go to the front.”

Whether Prigozhin makes good on his threat remains to be seen. But it is another indication that the man once referred to as “Putin’s Chef” is making things hot in the Kremlin kitchen.

How long he lasts is another increasingly relevant question as his constant lambasting of decision makers in Moscow wins him enemies. One would think he is bound to eventually draw Putin’s ire.

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Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard's work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.