Yevgeny Prigozhin, the financier of the Wagner mercenary group fighting for Moscow, has claimed Russian troops have surrounded Bakhmut, although Ukraine’s military said it has repelled attacks on the Donetsk city in the past 24 hours.
Prigozhin on Friday published a video message on his Telegram channel, saying that branches of the private military company Wagner had “surrounded” Bakhmut and that only one street was left out.
Where his forces used to fight against professional Ukrainian troops, he said: “Now we see old people and children more and more often.
“They are fighting, but their life in Bakhmut is short – a day or two,” he said in the video address. “Give them the opportunity to leave the city. The city is indeed surrounded.”
The camera then pans to his right where three men are standing. The eldest of the three then addressed a personal request to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, saying: “Volodymyr Oleksandrovych, we are addressing you as the President of our country, please give us a chance to return home to our families, to our homeland. Do not ignore this request.” It is not clear whether the men were captured soldiers or local residents.
But on the same day that Prigozhin claimed, the commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi, visited Bakhmut.
The commander of the Ukrainian special forces, Viktor Chorenko, also inspected his troops there on Saturday and emphasized that the Ukrainian units are “clearly fulfilling their assigned tasks” despite the “extremely difficult conditions”.
However, British defense officials said on Saturday that Bakhmut’s Ukrainian defenses were “under increasingly heavy pressure” as Wagner and regular Russian troops advanced into the city’s northern suburbs.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said Ukraine was reinforcing the area with elite forces and that two key bridges in Bakhmut had been destroyed in the last 36 hours, “including a vital bridge connecting the city to the last main supply route from Bakhmut to the city of Khasiv.” Jar.”
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think tank said Friday Ukraine likely destroyed bridges in preparation for a withdrawal from the city, which has been the scene of a bitter month-long battle that has claimed heavy casualties on both sides.
The commander of the tactical air reconnaissance group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Birds of the Magyar, said in a telegram post that his group had been ordered to leave Bakhmut for redeployment, although it is not known if this is related to reports that the town is encircled.
In a Twitter thread, military analyst and retired Australian General Mick Ryan said that for a Ukrainian withdrawal to preserve Ukrainian troops, “deception is essential”. This could be accomplished through increased fire support, decoys, simulation of normal activity, and communications discipline.
The key to such a move is deciding when and how “logistics assets, headquarters, reconnaissance elements and ground combat troops will be evacuated.”
“Ukrainians will need enough forces on the ground – with their own mobility – to prevent escape, but not so much that they lose a large portion of the force,” Ryan wrote.
“Ukrainians will want to achieve a ‘clean break’. This is a Russian retreat in a way that avoids their ability to go after and pursue the retreating force,” Ryan wrote. “Much artillery, attack concentrations of Russian reinforcements, and fire support will be needed.”
news week asked the defense ministries of Ukraine and Russia for their opinion.