Chris Lange, FISM News
The founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group on Sunday accused Moscow of withholding promised weapons from its fighters in Bakhmut.
Two days after Yevgeny Prigozhin declared that his troops had “practically surrounded Bakhmut,” he published a video warning that the Russian front in Bakhmut could collapse because Moscow had failed to make promised weapons deliveries.
“If Wagner retreats from Bakhmut now, the whole front will collapse,” Prigozhin said in a video posted on a Russian messaging app channel associated with Wagner, Reuters reported. “The situation will not be sweet for all military formations protecting Russian interests,” he said.
The Wagner chief noted separately on his Telegram app account that the Kremlin had not provided an explanation as to why it had not made good on the promise. “For now, we are trying to figure out the reason: Is it just ordinary bureaucracy, or a betrayal?”
Prigozhin has risen to power in the war as a key military advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin and has openly criticized Moscow’s official military hierarchy. He recently accused Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and others of “treason” for withholding munitions.
GERMAN CHANCELLOR ECHOES US THREAT OF ‘CONSEQUENCES’ FOR CHINA
Ukrainian and Western fears remain high that Beijing is poised to supply lethal aid to Russia. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) said on Sunday that Russia would gain access to an “inexhaustible source of weapons” if China decided to assist Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.
“The problem with China entering this is because you’ve got the West giving weapons to Ukraine,” Turner told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“You’ve got Russia depleting their stores. We obviously — the West together have an ability to impact Ukraine greater than Russia alone does,” the congressman said, but added that that could quickly change if Beijing begins supplying weapons to Moscow.
“That would be an inexhaustible source of weapons if China in its production capacity supported Russia and that would change the dynamic,” Turner said.
The U.S. has warned China of “consequences” if it provides lethal aid to Russia, a threat repeated by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday.
Two days after meeting with President Joe Biden in Washington, Scholz was asked by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria what his response would be should China provide Russia with munitions.
“I think it would have consequences, but we are now in a stage where we are making clear that this should not happen, and I’m relatively optimistic that we will be successful with our request in this case, but we will have to look at (it) and we have to be very, very cautious.”
Germany possesses Europe’s largest economy, and China has been its single biggest trading partner in recent years.
CIVILIANS KILLED, HOMES DESTROYED IN LATEST RUSSIAN ATTACKS
A 65-year-old man was killed Sunday in a Russian shelling attack in the Ukrainian town of Kupiansk, The Associated Press reported.
Kharkiv regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said at least five homes were also destroyed in the attack in the Kharkiv province located roughly 18 miles from the Russian border.
Elsewhere, in Ukraine’s east, two civilians were killed in Bakhmut where intense fighting continued over the weekend in the months-long, bloody battle over the salt-mining city that serves as a major transportation hub.
Kyiv’s forces destroyed two key bridges just outside of Bakhmut in recent days, indicative of a looming withdrawal hinted at by Ukraine’s military last week. The AP noted that one of the destroyed bridges was the last remaining supply route that connected Bakhmut to the nearby town of Chasiv Yar.
The U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said that Ukraine “may be conducting a limited fighting withdrawal in eastern Bakhmut,” adding that Ukrainian fighters are “continuing to inflict high casualties against the advancing mixed Russian forces,” referring to Moscow’s soldiers and contracted Wagner fighters.
The Washington D.C. think tank noted that Russian military bloggers appear to “have also lowered their expectations of Russian forces’ ability to launch additional offensives” in the area.
“If Russian forces manage to secure Bakhmut they could then attempt renewed pushes towards one or both of Kostyantynivka or Slovyansk but would struggle with endemic personnel and equipment constraints,” ISW wrote Sunday in its latest assessment of the war.
“Ukrainian forces are likely conducting a limited tactical withdrawal in Bakhmut, although it is still too early to assess Ukrainian intentions concerning a complete withdrawal from the city,” the report stated.
Meanwhile, two adults and two children were killed by Russian artillery fire in the Kherson region in the south, Ukraine’s presidential office reported Monday.