The head of Wagner, a private army in Russia, has expressed concern about the lack of ammunition being supplied from Moscow, as they strive to gain control of Bakhmut. This eastern city has seen months of intense fighting between Wagner and regular Russian troops in an attempt to take it. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the commander of Wagner, suggested the ammunition shortage could be due to either “ordinary bureaucracy or a betrayal”. In response, Ukraine’s president and military commanders have agreed to strengthen their defence of Bakhmut. Russia has seemed determined to capture the city for some time, yet analysts claim it is not of significant strategic value, but rather a symbolic prize in the war. An ongoing rivalry between mercenaries and the Russian military appears to have intensified in recent weeks, with Mr Prigozhin accusing the defence ministry of withholding ammunition. In a social media post, the businessman said documents were signed on the 22nd February to send the necessary ammunition to Bakhmut. However, most had not been shipped, leading Mr Prigozhin to suggest this may have been intentional. On Monday, he reported that his representative was denied access to the headquarters of the Russian military command, without specifying its location. Mr Prigozhin disclosed that he had written to Valery Gerasimov, the head of Russia’s “special military operation”, expressing the “urgent necessity” for ammunition. In a video uploaded on Saturday, he stated that his men feared they were being “set up” as scapegoats in case of a loss in Ukraine. He voiced his concern that they would be labeled as the ones responsible if Russia failed to win the war, saying “if we step back, we will go down in history as the people who took the main step to lose the war.” He also highlighted the “shell hunger”, or ammunition shortage, they were facing and questioned if the Russian authorities were intentionally withholding supplies and reinforcements with the intention of blaming them in case of defeat. Mr Prigozhin’s Saturday video declared that Wagner Group mercenaries were battling the “entire Ukrainian army” in eastern Bakhmut, hindering their ability to focus on other frontlines. He also highlighted the importance of his group in sustaining the Russian front. The ISW reported on Monday that Ukraine’s forces were possibly making a “limited fighting withdrawal” while still causing losses to Russian forces. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine stated that the nation’s military leaders voiced their approval of carrying on with
operations to protect and secure their positions in Bakhmut. During a meeting, Zelensky and top commanders Valery Zaluzhny and Oleksandr Syrsky discussed their support of “defensive operations and further strengthening our positions in Bakhmut”. Recently, BBC reported that there has been street combat between Russian and Ukrainian soldiers in Bakhmut. Deputy mayor Oleksandr Marchenko noted that the Russian military had not yet taken control of the city. Mr Marchenko informed the Today programme that the only ambition of those responsible for the conflict in Ukraine is to cause the death of civilians and the attempted genocide of the Ukrainian people. On the other hand, Moscow’s Mr Shoigu has been to the occupied city of Mariupol, a year after his forces besieged it. The defence ministry mentioned that the visit was made to ‘restore infrastructure in the Donbas’ – which is likely to be met with criticism in Ukraine due to Russia’s role in the destruction.