Reports on Wednesday revealed how the Russian 72nd Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade was seen by the Ukrainian Third Assault Brigade fleeing from the frontlines near the city of Bakhmut. The development follows months of bitter fighting in the city and several periods in which Ukrainian forces looked to be on the verge of withdrawing from the territory.
Reuters’ reporting on the claims appeared to support comments made by Wagner private mercenary group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who said this week that Russian forces had fled the city.
In a video shared on Telegram, Prigozhin described how one of the Russian military’s units had “fled” from one of Wagner’s flanks. In the video, Prigozhin also described how Ukrainian forces were “tearing up the flanks.”
Ukraine’s Third Assault Brigade responded to the news, thanking Prigozhin for “publicizing our success on the front” on his Telegram channel. The Ukrainian brigade also claimed that some Wagner fighters were among those who fled.
In a post shared on Wednesday, Prigozhin also warned that his troops were on the verge of being encircled in the city, and said that he may ultimately be forced to withdraw his private fighters.
The Wagner leader also directed criticism at the Russian government for failing to provide his fighters with sufficient ammunition – a complaint he has made on several occasions, not just in Bakhmut but elsewhere in Ukraine.
The news is a remarkable turnaround for the Ukrainian forces. In April, the chances of Ukraine taking control of the city or pushing out Russian forces seemed slim, with Moscow apparently deploying more weapons and soldiers to the city than many analysts anticipated. Some analysts even predicted that Russia could take Bakhmut within a matter of weeks.
Watch A Soldier Attempt to Surrender
The video, recorded from a Ukrainian drone, shows the Russian soldier in a trench waving to a Ukrainian drone and signaling that he intends to surrender.
Ukrainian drone operators then drop a note telling the Russian soldier to follow the drone. After briefly hesitating, the Russian soldier followed the instructions and was reportedly taken into Ukrainian custody.
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.