Claims by the head of the Wagner mercenary group that a Russian brigade has abandoned the fight in Bakhmut are accurate, the Ukrainian military said Tuesday, according to a translation by the Kyiv Independent.
Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has been locked in a long-running feud with Russian military leaders over strategy and ammunition, alleged that the 72nd Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade fled the hotly contested eastern city. In a lengthy statement Tuesday, he also said he and his troops have been told they will be deemed traitors if they withdraw from Bakhmut.
“A combat order came yesterday which clearly stated that if we leave our positions it will be regarded as treason against the motherland,” Prigozhin said. “If there is no ammunition, then we will leave our positions and we will be asking who is really betraying the motherland.” He said military leaders who signed orders providing insufficient firepower should take the blame.
Prigozhin, who warned Russian troops could be ill-prepared for a Ukrainian offensive, also alluded to major personnel losses. Ukraine’s Third Assault Brigade confirmed those in a statement saying his report of the Russian brigade’s departure “and the ‘500 corpses’ of Russians who remained there is true.”
Prigozhin made his accusations just as Russia was holding a scaled-down Victory Day celebration, marking the anniversary of the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
“Victory Day is the victory of our grandfathers,” he said. “We do not deserve this victory by a millimeter.”
∙Arman Soldin, the Ukraine video coordinator for Agence France-Presse, was killed Tuesday during a rocket attack near the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. Soldin was 32.
∙ European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, lauding the capital city as the “beating heart” of European values.
∙ Ukrainian authorities said Russia fired another barrage at Ukraine but that air defenses destroyed 23 of the 25 missiles that were launched. The air force said in a Telegram post that eight Kalibr cruise missiles were fired from carriers in the Black Sea toward the east and 17 from strategic aircraft.
Putin rails against Western ‘arrogance’
Western “arrogance” is driving a “real war” against Russia, and the West’s “superiority ideology is by definition repulsive, deadly and criminal,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday during a Victory Day parade on Moscow’s Red Square.
Putin did not dwell on his own bold invasion of Ukraine, which prompted the massive military response from the U.S. and its allies and has blunted the Kremlin’s push to seize large swaths of the war-battered but resilient nation. Since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, the U.S. alone has provided Ukraine with about $37 billion in military aid, including a $1.2 billion package announced Tuesday. Other nations have also provided billions of dollars of aid to Ukraine.
Putin said Western leaders “still talk about their exclusivity, put people against each other and divide society, provoke bloody conflicts and coups, sow hatred, Russophobia, aggressive nationalism, destroy those family, traditional values that make humans human.”
Victory Day, celebrated Tuesday in Moscow, marks the anniversary of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender on the night of May 8, 1945. A major parade was also held in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, but dozens of parades and other public commemorations were canceled across the country. Regional officials cited “security concerns” or simply “the current situation.”
Ukraine getting another $1.2 billion in military aid
The Pentagon on Tuesday announced a $1.2 billion military aid package for Ukraine that includes orders to contractors for “critical near-term capabilities,” including air defense systems and 155mm artillery rounds. The assistance initiative will fund HAWK air-defense systems, air-defense munitions and drones for air defense. It will also buy artillery, rockets, satellite imagery assistance and funding for ongoing maintenance and spare parts for a variety of systems.
Last week, the Pentagon sent Ukraine $300 million in ammunition and other equipment from existing stocks. The shipments come as Ukraine prepares to launch a long-planned offensive. Ukraine also needs air-defense systems to shoot down waves of Russian missiles and drones.
− Tom Vanden Brook
UN chief says peace talks ‘not possible’ now
Peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia are currently impossible as “both parties are convinced they can win,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres told Spanish newspaper El País. He said the Russian invasion was a clear breach of international law. But he said the U.N. is focused on solving specific problems such as securing exports of Ukrainian grain, desperately needed to feed the developing world, through the Black Sea.
“I think that negotiation for peace is not possible at this time,” Guterres said. “I do not see Russia at the moment willing to withdraw from the territories it occupies, and I think Ukraine is hoping to retake them.”
Contributing: The Associated Press