The infamous private military company Wagner Group is pulling out from Bakhmut after capturing the ruined town.
Wagner Group Out of Bakhmut
Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin had announced it, and now it’s happening.
The mercenary group has started pulling its forces out of the town in the Donbas.
To plug the gap, the Russian Ministry of Defense has moved pro-Russian separatist forces from the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic to conduct clearing operations in the town. The Russian forces might have captured the last city blocks, but there are likely Ukrainian forces trapped inside the town that are still putting out a fight.
The Kremlin has also likely rotated elements of the 31st VDV airborne Brigade from the Kreminna-Svatove area to the outskirts of Bakhmut, according to British Military Intelligence. Moscow is taking a risk by moving an elite formation from one part of the battlefield to another, considering that the Ukrainians are close to launching a large-scale counteroffensive.
Although the Russian forces captured Bakhmut last week, the Ukrainian military has launched a series of localized counterattacks on the outskirts of the town, liberating more than 8 square miles of territory.
“The rotation out of Wagner forces is likely to continue in controlled phases to prevent collapse in pockets around Bakhmut,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.
The Russian Ministry of Defense and Wagner Group have had an open feud for months now. But that hasn’t prevented them from working together on the ground in supporting roles.
Wagner Group has spearheaded the push into Bakhmut, essentially capturing the town after months of failed attempts by the Russian military. But it also took the private military company months to achieve its objective.
“Despite Prigozhin’s ongoing feud with the Russian MOD, Wagner forces will likely be used for further offensive operations in the Donbas following reconstituting its forces,” the British Military Intelligence added.
However, Wagner Group will need a source of manpower to continue its outsized role in the Russian strategy in Ukraine.
Likely due to the feud with the Russian military, the Kremlin cut Wagner Group’s access to prisons for recruitment.
Russian Casualties in Ukraine
Meanwhile, on day 457 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Moscow keeps losing men on the ground. In the past 24 hours, the Russian military, Wagner Group mercenaries, and pro-Russian separatist forces have lost more than 400 men killed or wounded and over 70 heavy weapon systems, such as tanks, artillery pieces, tactical unmanned aerial systems, armored personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Saturday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 206200 Russian troops.
Destroyed equipment includes: 310 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 296 attack and transport helicopters, 3,799 tanks, 3,406 artillery pieces, 7,442 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 572 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 18 boats and cutters, 6,172 vehicles and fuel tanks, 329 anti-aircraft batteries, 2,941 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 449 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 1,025 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.