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Ukraine updates: Wagner boss says Russian army fled Bakhmut

Published May 9, 2023last updated May 9, 2023

Pro-Kremlin paramilitary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin accuses a regular Russian military unit of abandoning its positions near Bakhmut. Meanwhile, Russia has launched a new attack on Kyiv. DW has the latest.

Yevgeny Prigozhin as he appears in a video address
Prigozhin repeated a threat to withdraw his forces if Moscow does not supply them with ammunitionImage: Konkord Company/Tass/IMAGO

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary group that leads the ongoing assault on Bakhmut, on Tuesday accused the Russian army of fleeing its positions around the city.

"Today one of the units of the Defense Ministry fled from one of our flanks ... exposing the front," said Prigozhin.

Prigozhin, popularly known as Putin's chef because of the lucrative catering contracts he once held with the Kremlin, accused the Russian Defense Ministry of "scheming all the time" instead of fighting.

Prigozhin said soldiers were abandoning their positions because of the "stupidity" of Russian army commanders, who he said were giving "criminal orders."

"Soldiers should not die because of the absolute stupidity of their leadership," Prigozhin said, repeating his threat that Wagner would withdraw from the frontline city if Russia does not supply more ammunition soon. 

The mercenary group has been at the forefront of Russia's efforts to take Bakhmut. Russian authorities committed to providing Wagner Group with more ammunition after Prigozhin publicly denounced Russia's military leadership in a confrontational video filmed while standing over the bodies of dead soldiers in Bakhmut.

The city has been the center of fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces for months, and both sides have suffered severe casualties there. Prigozhin threatened to withdraw Wagner Group fighters from the city due to the shortage of ammunition.

Wagner group chief announces withdrawal from Bakhmut

"The people who were supposed to fulfill the (shipment) orders have so far, over the past day, not fulfilled them," Prigozhin said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russian forces had failed to capture the city before the May 9 Russian holiday that marks the Soviet Union's World War II victory over Nazi Germany.

A Ukrainian general had said on Sunday that Moscow Russia was still hoping to capture Bakhmut before Tuesday's Victory Day events.

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Tuesday, May 9:

AFP journalist killed close to Bakhmut

Arman Soldin, a video coordinator working for the French press agency AFP in Ukraine, was killed on Tuesday close to the frontline city of Bakhmut when the group of Ukrainian soldiers he was with came under fire.

A Grad rocket killed the 32-year-old French national who was born in Sarajevo. None of the rest of his team were injured.

"The whole agency is devastated by the loss of Arman," AFP chairman Fabrice Fries said.

"His death is a terrible reminder of the risks and dangers faced by journalists every day covering the conflict in Ukraine."

French President Emmanuel Macron also tweeted his condolences.

"With bravery, from the first hours of the conflict he was at the front to establish the facts. To inform us," Macron wrote, saying he shared "the pain of his relatives and all his colleagues".

At least 11 journalists or media personnel have been killed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion last February, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Germany's Baerbock and Chinese counterpart discuss sanctions against Russia

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters after a meeting with her Chinese counterpart in Berlin that it was important to prevent Russian defense companies from "gaining access to war-relevant goods."

She said it was important that "sanctioned dual-use goods don't fall into the wrong hands" and that sanctions against Russia are not subverted in a roundabout way.

Baerbock was responding to Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang's comments to reporters where he denied Western allegations that Beijing was providing political and material support to Russia.

The European Union is currently considering imposing sanctions against Chinese companies accused of providing help to Russia's arms industry.

China is "strongly opposed" to countries introducing unilateral sanctions against China or other countries under their own domestic laws, Qin said, according to an official interpreter.

Ukraine sees alternatives if grain export deal not extended

Kyiv says it plans on alternative ways of transporting grain if a deal on safe Black Sea exports is not extended on May 18.
The Ukrainian agriculture ministry says it would not see that outcome as an "apocalyptic scenario."

Access to three Ukrainian Black Sea ports that were blockaded after Russia's invasion last year was cleared under a deal between Moscow and Kyiv that was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey. That deal now lasts until July.

Russia has threatened to quit the agreement on May 18 unless its demands are met to remove obstacles to Russia's own grain and fertiliser exports. 

"We do not envisage any apocalyptic scenario due to a million circumstances. Ukrainian farmers and Ukrainian traders have shown that they can do a lot, and a lot of [export] routes can be laid," Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky was quoted as saying late on Monday.

US announces Ukraine defense aid deal

The United Nations said on Monday that so far nearly 30 million metric tons of grain and foodstuffs had been exported from Ukraine under the Black Sea deal, including nearly 600,000 metric tons of grain in World Food Programme vessels for aid operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Yemen.

Ukraine has said previously that an export route known as the Danube Cluster offers a viable alternative.

Washington has announced a new $1.2 billion security aid package for Ukraine to boost its air defenses and beef up stocks of additional artillery ammunition.

The Pentagon said the package underscores a commitment to Ukraine "by committing critical near-term capabilities, such as air defense systems and munitions, while also building the capacity of Ukraine's armed forces to defend its territory and deter Russian aggression over the long term."

The procurement of equipment would come from the defense industry or partners rather than the provision of equipment from existing US stocks.

The package includes unspecified air defense systems and munitions as well as gear to integrate Western systems with Ukraine's existing mainly Soviet-vintage equipment.

It includes counter-drone system ammunition, 155-millimeter artillery rounds, and commercial satellite imagery services.

Activist artists stops Russian diplomat laying wreath

Moscow's ambassador to Poland found his path to lay flowers at a Soviet memorial in Warsaw blocked by an installation representing Russian war crimes as Russia celebrates Victory Day over Nazi Germany.

Several dozen activists also unveiled the work, comprising hundreds of Ukrainian flags and memorial crosses for Ukrainians killed during the Russian invasion, outside the memorial.

The installation included models of apartment buildings damaged and destroyed by Russian shelling in different Ukrainian cities.

A wreath placed by Russia's ambassador to Poland lies in front of an installation representing Russian crimes in Ukraine
The one-day installation was set up by Ukrainian activists on the day Russia celebrates the defeat of Nazi GermanyImage: Czarek Sokolowski/AP Photo/picture alliance

The ambassador, Sergei Andreyev, tried to place his wreath at the mausoleum but was confronted by pro-Ukrainian activists. He was eventually forced to lay the flowers at the entrance.

Andreyev was also met with protests last year at the memorial, when activists threw red paint at him. 

Von der Leyen visits Kyiv to mark Europe Day

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrived in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, on Tuesday to mark Europe Day, a day observed annually by the European Union to celebrate peace and unity in Europe.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had decreed that Ukraine would also observe Europe Day this year, which coincides with the Victory Day parades held in Russia to mark the end of World War II.

"I very much welcome President Zelenskyy's decision to make May 9 the Day of Europe. Ukraine is part of our European family," von der Leyen told reporters on her train to Kyiv.

Ukraine moved its commemoration of the end of World War II in Europe from May 8 to May 9, in line with many other countries in Europe, in order to avoid celebrating the historic military victory on the same day as Russia.

Germany's Scholz calls to integrate Europe's defense industries

The member states of the European Union must integrate their various defense industries more quickly, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

"Russia's brutal war of aggression against Ukraine has shown us how essential this realization is," he added.

Putin speaks at Victory Day parade

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech at the annual Victory Day parade in Moscow to mark the Soviet Union's role in the Allied victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

"Today civilisation is again at a decisive turning point," Putin said during his speech, adding that "a real war has been unleashed against our motherland." 

He also claimed that the future of Russia depends on the troops fighting in the invasion of Ukraine.

Putin addresses WWII Victory Day parade in Moscow

Authorities have scaled back the annual parade to exclude the traditional flyover and the "Immortal Regiment" processions, in which people carry portraits of relatives who fought against the Nazis.

The Kremlin feared many would carry portraits of those who died in the war in Ukraine and show the extent of Russian losses in the ongoing war. 

UN chief says Ukraine peace talks not possible right now

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres believes peace talks over Russia's invasion of Ukraine are not possible right now, he said at an event in Spain on Tuesday.

"Unfortunately, I believe that at this stage, a peace negotiation is not possible. Both sides are convinced that they can win," Guterres told Spain's El Pais newspaper.

"At the moment, I do not see any possibility of achieving immediately — we are not talking about the future — a comprehensive cease-fire, a peace negotiation," he added.

Russia fires missiles at Kyiv

Russia launched a fresh attack on Kyiv on Tuesday as it marked Victory Day at home.

Ukrainian officials said the army downed 23 out of 25 cruise missiles on Tuesday morning, most of which were directed at the capital.

"As at the front, the plans of the aggressor failed," Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv's city military administration, posted on Telegram.

Air raid alerts went off nationwide, but the military said that it was repelling the Russian strikes.

The missile attack comes a day after Russia launched its largest-ever swarm of drones across Ukraine.

EU envoy to China hails Xi-Zelenskyy phone call

The EU's envoy to China said on Tuesday that Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent phone call with Zelenskyy was a very positive step.

The phone call last month came after Xi visited Moscow in March to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in February, calling the Russian leader "a dear friend."

"We would like China to go further and help more to reach a just peace, which involves withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine," said Jorge Toledo Albinana at a press conference in Beijing.

Zelenskyy says Russia will be 'crushed' just like Nazism

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy marked the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany at the end of World War II in a speech on Monday evening, in which he compared the fight against Nazism with the fight against Russia.

He said that the "evil" Russia was bringing back "will be crushed just as Nazism was crushed."

"We don't know the date of our victory yet, but we know that this will be a celebration for all of Ukraine, for all of Europe, for all of the free world," he added.

Zelenskyy's nightly video address on the anniversary of the defeat of Nazism came as Russia was gearing up for its own Victory Day celebration on Tuesday — one that will take place with heightened security following what Russia claims was an attempt by Ukraine to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin with drones.

More DW coverage on Russia's war in Ukraine

The EU is preparing an 11th round of sanctions against Russia. DW looks at how these measures aim to prevent the further circumvention of sanctions by third states and companies.

Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia power plant is Europe’s largest nuclear facility. It’s also central to Russia’s war. DW spoke to nuclear experts about the potential consequences of a meltdown.

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

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