Ukraine fights back, retakes area north of Bakhmut
Ukrainian forces have retaken part of the village of Berkhivka, north of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.
“Now part of the settlement of Berkhivka has already been lost, the troops are quietly running away. Disgrace!” Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said in an audio message published by his press service.
Prigozhin’s private Wagner militia captured Bakhmut last month after the longest battle of the war and handed its positions there to regular Russian troops.
Prigozhin urged Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and the chief of the general staff, Valery Gerasimov, to come to the front to rally the troops.
“Come on, you can do it!” he said in his message. “And if you can’t, you’ll die heroes.”
Prigozhin has waged a public feud with Shoigu and Gerasimov for months, frequently accusing them of failing to provide sufficient ammunition and support for Wagner in the field, and so causing it to suffer needlessly heavy losses.
In recent days, Prigozhin has further escalated the feud, accusing regular forces under the command of the defence ministry of mining roads out of Bakhmut used by Wagner units.
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Prigozhin’s press service published video on Monday showing the interrogation of a captive who identified himself as a lieutenant colonel in Russia’s 72nd motorised rifle brigade, which has fought around Bakhmut, and which Prigozhin previously blamed for losing ground around Berkhivka.
The video had the appearance of a forced confession, with the man responding in a low voice to harsh questioning. He said he had drunkenly fired on a Wagner vehicle, and had disarmed a group of mercenary fighters out of “personal hostility” to the Wagner Group. Asked how his actions could be characterised, he replied, after a long pause: “Guilty”.
Ukrainian forces have continued to attack areas north and south of the city including Berkhivka, whose seizure Wagner had claimed on Feb. 24. The village lies about 3 km (1.9 miles) northwest of Bakhmut.
Denis Pushilin, the Moscow-backed governor of the Donetsk region, which includes Bakhmut, told Russian state television the situation on the city’s flanks was “under control” but “very difficult”.