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Ukraine updates: New claims that Russian units fled Bakhmut

Published May 10, 2023last updated May 10, 2023

The planned counteroffensive against Russian forces may not be the last, Ukraine's foreign minister has said. Meanwhile, the European Union is discussing new sanctions. DW has the latest.

An aerial shot of burning apartment blocks in Bakhmut
Bakhmut has been under siege for monthsImage: Libkos/AP Photo/picture alliance

A unit of the Ukrainian military claims to have confirmed reports that a Russian military unit fled from the front-line city of Bakhmut.

"It's official. [Yevgeny] Prigozhin's report about the flight of Russia's 72nd Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade from near Bakhmut and the '500 corpses' of Russians left behind is true," Ukraine's Third Separate Assault Brigade said overnight.

"The Third Assault Brigade is grateful for the publicity about our success at the front." 

The reports first emerged on Tuesday when Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary group that is spearheading the assault on the city, accused the Russian army of abandoning its positions.

"Our army is fleeing. The 72nd Brigade pissed away three square kilometers ... where I had lost around 500 men," Prigozhin said on Tuesday.

The Wagner chief had threatened to withdraw his own paramilitary if Moscow does not supply more ammunition.

Ukraine's Third Assault Brigade was formed out of the Azov Battalion.

One of the far-right, ultranationalist founders of the Azov Battalion, Andriy Biletsky, claimed later on Wednesday that Ukrainian forces had "defeated" a Russian army unit near Bakhmut and that "this entire territory is completely liberated from the Russian occupying forces."

The Kremlin has not commented on reports out of Ukraine or from Wagner Group that its 72nd Separate Motor-rifle Brigade had abandoned its positions around Bakhmut.

Kyiv also did not specifically confirm the reports.

The power struggle of Russia's Wanger mercenaries

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Wednesday, May 10:

No Ukrainian land must be left to Russia — Zelenskyy

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he wants to drive invading Russian forces out of Ukraine with foreign support.

"We will not leave a single piece of our land to the enemy — tyranny will rule nowhere," Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

Zelenskyy also said preparations were under way for "reconstruction after hostilities," from the economy and industry to armaments, energy, infrastructure, education, social services and health care.

"Now, in May, we will finalize the concrete points of these state programs, and in June we will work with our foreign partners on our plans," Zelenskyy said.

"Here, in Ukraine, the world will see what Europe is capable of." 

Poland's Kaliningrad renaming a 'hostile act' — Kremlin

Russia has labeled Poland's decision to rename the enclave city of Kaliningrad a "hostile act."

On Wednesday Poland said it would stop using the official name and revert to its historic equivalent.

Poland's development minister Waldemar Buda said Kaliningrad would now officially be called Königsberg — Krolewiec in Polish.

"We do not want Russification in Poland and that is why we have decided to change the name in our native language of Kaliningrad and the Kaliningrad region," Buda said in a statement on Wednesday.

"It's not even Russophobia anymore, these are processes close to madness that are going on in Poland," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

"It brings no good to Poland. These are not just unfriendly actions: these are hostile actions," Peskov added.

Russia using 'old' equipment — top NATO admiral

Chairman of NATO's military committee, Admiral Rob Bauer, said Russia is facing an increasingly difficult situation in Ukraine and is having to use old military hardware.

"The Russians are now starting to use very old materiel," Bauer said. "The T-54 tanks that we now see in the battlefield, the 54 is actually related to the year of design, 1954," he added.

Bauer was speaking in Brussels at the end of a meeting of the alliance's defense chiefs and said what Russia lacked in quality they made up for in quantity.

"What we will see now is that the Russians will focus — have to focus — on quantity, larger number of conscripts, and mobilize people, not well-trained, older materiel. But large numbers," he said.

Bauer said the NATO military chiefs restated "unrelenting support" to a Ukrainian representative at the meeting.

Wagner chief worried about Bakhmut encirclement

The head of Russia's Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin said he is concerned his forces could become surrounded in Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

"In view of the lack of ammunition, the 'meat grinder' is now threatening to turn in the opposite direction," Yevgeny Prigozhin wrote on Telegram on Wednesday evening.

"There is now a serious danger of encirclement of Wagner due to the collapse of the flanks," Prigozhin wrote. "And the flanks are already showing cracks and crumbling."

The mercenary group has been at the forefront of Russia's efforts to take Bakhmut.

Ukrainian troops make advances in Bakhmut

Former German chancellor at Russian embassy party — reports

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has been criticised after reports of his attendance at a Victory Day party held at the Russian embassy in Berlin.

German daily Bild published a picture of Schröder along with his wife So-yeon Schröder-Kim.

The former chancellor has not yet commented on his reported presence at the reception held on Tuesday to mark the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

The joint leader of Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, Tino Chrupalla also reportedly attended the event.

Schröder was chancellor for two terms from 1998 to 2005 and fostered close ties with Russia and then-incoming President Vladimir Putin during his time in office. 

After losing in elections to Angela Merkel, Schröder took up a number of jobs with Russian energy companies, usually on their boards.

France launches war crimes probe after AFP reporter's death

France's anti-terrorism prosecution office announced that it had opened an investigation for possible war crimes and crimes against humanity.

That’s after AFP video journalist, Arman Soldin was killed on Tuesday by Grad rocket fire near Chasiv Yar, in eastern Ukraine.

Prosecutor's said the probe would be handled by a specialist investigative unit that would seek to determine the circumstances of Soldin's death.

At least 11 journalists, fixers or drivers for media teams have been killed since Russia invaded Ukraine more than a year ago, according to advocacy groups.

Kyiv says counteroffensive won't be the last

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has talked down the idea of a planned counteroffensive being a guaranteed turning point in the war, adding that Ukraine would not stop launching counteroffensives until it has reclaimed all of the territory occupied by Russia.

"Do not consider this counteroffensive as the last one, because we do not know what will come out of it," Kuleba told Germany's Bild newspaper in comments published on Wednesday.

He said if the counteroffensive doesn't achieve Kyiv's goal of liberating all Ukrainian territory, "it means we have to prepare for the next counteroffensive."

Can Ukraine's counteroffensive meet expectations?

Kuleba said Ukraine is still seeking more equipment for its resistance against Russia.

"Because to win the war, you need weapons, weapons and more weapons," he said.

He cited the German arms giant Rheinmetall, which makes the Leopard 2 tank, as "a kind of titan of the arms industry in Europe and probably in the world."

Kuleba also called on Germany to help persuade the United States to deliver F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

Zaporizhzhia plant could face 'catastrophic' staff shortage

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the largest nuclear power station in Europe, will face a "catastrophic lack" of personnel if a purported Russian plan to evacuate more than 3,000 workers goes ahead, Ukraine's state-owned energy company Energoatom said on Wednesday.

The Moscow-installed governor of the region ordered civilians to evacuate from several cities last Saturday including Enerhodar, where most of the plant workers live.

Meanwhile, Russia's state-owned TASS news agency reported on Monday that the Moscow-installed governor had suspended operations at the plant.

Although the plant's six reactors have been shut down to reduce the risk of a disaster during the war, the facility still needs electricity and qualified workers to operate cooling systems and other safety features. 

"The Russian occupiers are proving their inability to ensure the operation of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, as there is now a catastrophic lack of qualified personnel," Energoatom said on Telegram.

"Even those Ukrainian workers who, having signed shameful contracts ... are going to be 'evacuated' soon. And this will exacerbate the already extremely urgent issue of having a sufficient number of personnel to ensure the safety of operation of the nuclear power plant even in the current shutdown state."

Polish media says object found in forest was Russian missile

A object that had been found in a Polish forest last month was a Russian CH-55 cruise missile, local media outlets RMF FM and Polsat news reported on Wednesday.

The "military object," as Polish authorities called it, was found near the village of Zamosc.

The two Polish media outlets that claimed to have identified the object cited anonymous sources.

EU members talk sanctions

European Union member states began talks on Wednesday morning to impose further sanctions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but an agreement could be a long way off as different countries have differing perspectives on how hard to crack down.

The latest round of sanctions is expected to target Chinese and Iranian firms in particular, as well as to crack down on third countries that have been accused of helping Russia skirt sanctions.

"If we see that goods are going from the European Union to third countries and then end up in Russia, we could propose to the member states to sanction those goods' export," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

"This tool will be a last resort and it will be used cautiously," she added.

Diplomatic sources told the Reuters news agency that the sanctions could also highlight that oil tankers are not allowed to offload on the high seas and must keep their GPS trackers on when entering ports — an apparent attempt to better enforce restrictions on trading Russian oil. 

Victory Day parade shows Kremlin's challenges

Russia's scaled-back Victory Day parade in Moscow on Tuesday was a sign of the challenging situation faced by Russian authorities at home, the British Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

Although some 8,000 personnel reportedly participated in the parade, many of these troops were auxiliary, paramilitary forces, and cadets from military training establishments.

Members of the Railway Troops and military police were the only deployable, regular forces to march.

Moscow's Victory Day parade just a big production for television: DW's Juri Rescheto

"The make-up of Russia's annual Victory Day Parade in Red Square highlighted the materiel and strategic communications challenges the military is facing 15 months into the war in Ukraine," the ministry said in its daily intelligence update.

The sole tank in the parade was a vintage T-34. Despite heavy losses in Ukraine, the Russian military could have fielded more armored vehicles, according to British intelligence.

"The authorities likely refrained from doing so because they want to avoid domestic criticism about prioritising parades over combat operations," the ministry said.

Russian authorities down drone

Russia shot down an "enemy" drone over the city of Kursk, near the border with Ukraine, the regional governor claimed on Wednesday.

"Debris fell in the village of Tolmachevo. No one was hurt," Roman Starovoyt said on Telegram.

He claimed that the debris damaged a gas pipeline and a house.

Kyiv almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks inside Russian territory, but officials recently said that undermining Russia's logistics is part of the preparation for the upcoming counteroffensive.

More DW coverage on Russia's war in Ukraine

Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelenskyy has changed the national day commemorating the end of World War II in Europe from May 9 — known as Victory Day in Russia — to May 8, in line with many other European countries. DW asked Ukrainians how they feel about the change.

zc/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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