A senior US official on Thursday expressed serious doubts about Russia’s capabilities War in Ukraine, with an ammunition shortage a clear and pressing concern for Moscow as it appears to drive a wedge deeper between its defense ministry and private mercenary armies that have fought most of the war at the behest of the Kremlin. As the boss of Wagner’s mercenary group publicly fumed about wasting his fighters on the front lines without enough ammunition, a top American intelligence official Said Moscow could fight back “Sustaining even modest offensive operations” in Ukraine this year.
Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin dealt a potentially stunning blow to Putin’s war effort on Friday, issuing a public tirade on Russia’s military commanders and posting it all over social media.
Wagner “Beyond Bakhmut”
“Here are Wagner’s boys who died today,” Prigogine said in a video, standing over the bodies of men he said were fighters killed in the battle for the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, which his group has led for months.
“Their blood is still warm… They are father and son!” “Where’s their ammunition?” he shouted.
Prigozhin Press Service via AP
Prigogine has complained for months that Russia’s Defense Ministry is failing to adequately supply his private army, claiming that generals are jealous of his own group’s battlefield successes. But in a second message posted later Friday, the mercenary commander went further, announcing the imminent withdrawal of Wagner’s forces from the Battle of Bakhmut.
“I declare on behalf of the Wagner fighters, on behalf of the Wagner command, that on May 10, 2023, we are obliged to transfer the location of the settlement of Bakhmut to the units of the Ministry of Defense and withdraw the remains of Wagner to the logistics camp. To lick our wounds,” Prigozhin said in a written message. “I Pulling Wagner units out of Bakhmut because, for want of ammunition, they would perish senseless.”
Prigogine, who has long been said to be personally close to Putin, is prone to rhetorical flourishes and has previously dismissed dramatic statements as jokes, but there was no hint of that in his Friday comments. This will be a major concern for the Kremlin, as the bulk of the fighting is done in Bakhmu — At the great cost of life – By Prigogine’s Men.
The United States estimated earlier this week that about 20,000 Russian forces have been killed since December, and that most of the fighting since then has been over Bakhmut.
It was another tense night across Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s unsubstantiated claims earlier in the week of an attempted drone strike on Moscow’s Kremlin. Russia claimed on Wednesday, without providing any evidence, that Ukraine had sent two drones flying directly at Putin’s official residence. Unverified video released by Russian media shows at least one small explosion as an aircraft appears to be intercepted over the Kremlin.
Ukraine has denied any involvement, and the US government has rejected Moscow’s claims that it ordered the alleged attacks, urging the public to take all information from the Kremlin “with a grain of salt”.
U.S. officials told CBS News they believe the drones were controlled locally from within Russia, but that doesn’t rule out possible Ukrainian involvement.
Maksim Muzyka, who designs and operates attack drones for Ukraine’s military, told CBS News that there is no doubt that the drones involved in the alleged attack on the Kremlin were flown by someone in or near Moscow. Flying them hundreds of miles from Ukraine, he said, would be “impossible” with such small drones with their limited range.
The drone, he agreed with top US intelligence officials, “obviously” came “from inside Russia.”
Regardless of who actually flew the drones, which the Kremlin characterized as an attempt to assassinate Putin, it was clear soon after the incident that Moscow would use it as a pretext to launch a new attack on Ukraine.
Russian forces have fired new rockets and drones at Ukrainian cities since Wednesday. Most of them were intercepted, but at least one strategic infrastructure site was hit — along with civilian homes, Killed about two dozen innocent people.
Kiev and other major cities remain tense, so a drone sighting in the capital on Thursday night prompted a swift response. A Stinger missile shot it out of the sky, to cheers of “Victory to Ukraine” on the ground.
Ukrainian defense officials later said it was one of their own, rogue ones, that somehow came offline. But in a city that has been targeted by Russian drones and missiles for several nights in a row, residents are understandably upset.
The U.S. State Department said Russia launched more than 145 airstrikes across Ukraine this week — that’s more than one missile, drone or bomb per hour, 24 hours a day, for four straight days.
Tensions in Kiev and other cities are unlikely to ease as Moscow faces the prospect of trying to respond to a long-awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive with a fractured ground force and not enough ammunition to go around.
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