Euronews correspondent Sasha Vakulina talks us through the maps tracking the progress of the battle for Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.
According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the conflict between the Russian Ministry of Defense and Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has likely reached its climax, with the Kremlin using Bakhmut as an opportunity to expend Wagner’s forces.
Suspicious of Prigozhin’s growing power, as he strives for greater influence in the Kremlin, the Russian Ministry of Defense is attempting to weaken his position.
The ISW states: “Putin had ultimately allowed the Russian MoD to retake control of the Bakhmut direction from Prigozhin in January, as Wagner forces failed to deliver the promised victory over Bakhmut by the end of 2022.”
In 2022, Prigozhin grew his Wagner manpower by 40,000, drawing recruits from Russian prisons, but at the start of this year, the Kremlin issued an order that he could no longer employ those troops.
The high death toll in the bloody battle for Bakhmut has also weakened Wagner’s power; the UK Ministry of Defense estimates that around half of the prisoners fighting for the paramilitary organization have been killed.
This, combined with the ban, may mean that Prigozhin is forced to reduce the scale or intensity of Wagner’s operations in Ukraine.
He has already threatened to withdraw Wagner forces from Bakhmut, and insinuated that the Kremlin has been using Wagner’s troops as cannon fodder, bearing the brunt of high-intensity attritional urban warfare in Bakhmut, so to conserve Russian forces.
Meanwhile, Russia has continued its offensive operations near Bakhmut, a symbolically important city, but has not yet succeeded in encircling the city.
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