Wagner says Russia promises enough ammunition to live in Bakhmut

The head of the Wagner mercenary group said on Sunday that Russia had promised its fighters enough ammunition to live in Bakhmut, after threatening to walk out in a threatening video.

The rivalry between Yevgeny Prigozhin and the conventional army comes to the surface during the battle for the eastern Ukrainian city where Wagner is leading the assault.

It comes as Russia has reported escalating drone attacks and sabotage amid speculation of an expected spring retaliatory strike from Ukraine.

“Overnight we received a combat order… They promised to give us all the ammunition and weapons we need to continue operations in Bakhmut”, said Mr. Prigozhin.

His group has been assured that “everything required will be provided,” he said.

On Friday, he threatened to pull out of Bakhmut on 10 May, blaming Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and General Staff Valery Gerasimov for “thousands” of Russian casualties.

He said at the time, “Their unprofessionalism is destroying thousands of Russian people and it is unforgivable.”

In a video, Mr Prigozhin was seen showing lines of what he said were dead Wagner fighters.

“They came here as volunteers and they’re dying so you can get fat in your wood-paneled offices,” he said.

On Saturday, he asked Moscow to allow Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov to hand over his posts.

Kadyrov, who has ruled Russia’s Muslim-majority republic of Chechnya for the past decade and a half, said his men were ready to move to Bakhmut.

Mr Prigozhin has for months been accusing the conventional army of denying ammunition to his men.

Still, the emotive language used in Friday’s video and the personal criticism of leaders of Russia’s campaign in Ukraine were unprecedented.

On Sunday, Prigozhin said Russian General Sergei Surovikin, one of Gerasimov’s deputies, would oversee Wagner’s operations.

Prigozhin took a renewed dig at Russia’s other army chiefs, saying, “He is the only decorated general who knows how to fight.”

Surovikin, renowned for his ruthlessness praised by Wagner, was named military commander in Ukraine in October.

Three months later, he was replaced by Gerasimov, whom Prigozhin regularly criticizes.

Russian troops have fought since last summer to capture Bakhmut, whose political importance now outweighs any strategic value.

On Saturday, the commander of the Ukrainian army, Alexander Syrsky, visited the eastern front.

“The enemy is not going to change its plans and is doing everything possible to regain control of Bakhmut,” Sirsky said in a statement published on Sunday.

Ukraine is gearing up for a retaliatory strike aimed at expelling Russian troops from gained territories in the east and south.

Reports of drone strikes and sabotage attempts have multiplied, which experts suggest is part of Ukraine’s preparations for retaliation.

The attacks came ahead of Russia’s May 9 public holiday, a central event under President Vladimir Putin that celebrates the Soviet victory over the Nazis in World War II.

On Sunday, the Russian military said it shot down 22 Ukrainian drones over the Black Sea.

Shortly before, officials in Russian-annexed Crimea, bordered by the Black Sea and the Sea of ​​Azov, said they downed more than 10 drones over the southern peninsula.

Russian security services also said they foiled a drone attack on an airfield in the Ivanovo region.

Moscow blamed Ukraine and its “Western ideologues” for a car bomb that wounded prominent nationalist writer Zakhar Prilepin and killed his assistant on Saturday.

In retaliation, Moscow has ordered families with children and the elderly to temporarily evacuate Russian-held areas in southern Ukraine.

The governor of the southern Zaporizhia region said on Sunday that more than 1,500 people had been evacuated, including 632 minors.

The partial evacuation concerned at least 18 towns and settlements, including the city near Europe’s largest nuclear plant.

“The normal situation in the area near the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant is becoming increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous,” UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi said on Saturday.

“I am extremely concerned about the very real nuclear safety and security risks facing the plant.”