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Ukraine updates: Wagner 'to leave' Bakhmut on May 10

Published May 5, 2023last updated May 5, 2023

Wagner chief Prigozhin said the group's forces will transfer their positions in the city to Russia's regular forces. Meanwhile, Lavrov described the alleged Kremlin drone incident as a "hostile act." DW has the latest.

Fighting in Bakhmut, Ukraine
Bakhmut is a major flashpoint of the fighting in eastern UkraineImage: RIA Novosti/Sputnik/SNA/IMAGO

Russia's Wagner paramilitary, which has been at the forefront of the monthslong battle to capture Bakhmut, announced it shall withdraw from the region on May 10.

Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a statement on Friday that the lack of ammunition was the reason for the withdrawal. He blamed Russia's defense ministry.

"I'm pulling Wagner units out of Bakhmut because in the absence of ammunition they're doomed to perish senselessly," the group's chief said.

Wagner's positions in Bakhmut will be transferred to Russia's regular forces, Prigozhin said.

Prigozhin published on Friday a video of himself standing among dozens of bloodied corpses, where he blamed Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for the losses Wagner has suffered in Ukraine.

He addressed Shoigu, telling him Wagner had a "70% shortage of ammunition" and asking where the ammunition was. Prigozhin said that the group's losses would be five times smaller if adequate supplies were available.

"These are Wagner lads who died today. The blood is still fresh," Prigozhin said, pointing to the corpses around him. "They came here as volunteers and they're dying so you can get fat in your offices."

The battle for the strategically important city has become the longest of the war, with severe losses on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides.

Russian forces were adamant for months about capturing the city, which would be their first significant battlefield victory in some eight months.

The battle has drained both sides' artillery reserves, with thousands of shells fired daily.

Wagner had consistently pleaded for more ammunition to secure a victory.

Prigozhin has been vocal about a deepening rift with the Russian Defense Ministry amid rising rivalry between the two bodies on the Ukrainian battlefield.

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war in Ukraine on Friday, May 5:

Zelenskyy says United24 donation platform helps fund defense and reconstruction

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy celebrated the successes of the United24 donation platform for Ukraine, which he launched last year, saying it helps fund defense and reconstruction projects.

The original goal of uniting people worldwide to campaign for Ukraine and freedom has succeeded, Zelenskyy said in his evening video address. 

Donations collected in 110 countries supported, among other things, the building of the fleet of naval drones and all projects related to drones for the front. "It is thousands of drones that make Ukraine more powerful," Zelenskyy said.

The platform has so far raised more than $325 million (€292 million) in donations since its inception exactly a year ago, according to a presentation on its website. In addition to the military sector, the funds are now also being used in the medical sector, for the restoration of schools and demining.

Pistorius vows German support for Kyiv 'as long as it takes'

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius vowed that Berlin would continue its support for Ukraine in the conflict with Russia for "as long as it takes." 

"I stand by it and say it again and again with the utmost conviction: We will support Ukraine with everything that is possible — as long as it takes," Pistorius said while visiting Ukrainian soldiers at a German army site in Klietz in Saxony-Anhalt in the east of the country. 

He was joined by his Danish counterpart Troels Lund Poulsen. During their visit, Pistorius and Poulsen held talks with instructors and Ukrainian soldiers.

German and Danish instructors there are teaching Ukrainian soldiers how to operate and maintain Leopard 1 A5 main battle tanks. Technicians from the defense industry are supporting the training program. Germany, together with the Netherlands and Denmark, is also financing the repair of some 100 battle tanks from industry stocks.

The site in Klietz is the central hub of the EU Military Assistance Mission to Ukraine in Germany. So far, more than 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been trained. By the end of the year, the number is expected to grow to up to 9,000.

Russians announce partial evacuation of Ukrainian frontline areas

Russian occupation forces are ordering civilians to vacate frontline areas in Ukraine's southern Zaporizhzhia region, a Moscow-appointed local representative said.

"The Zaporizhzhia authorities decided to temporarily move residents of 18 settlements near the front deeper into the region due to increasing Ukrainian shelling," Vladimir Rogov wrote on Telegram.

The town of Enerhodar, where the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is situated, is one of the locations to be evacuated, Rogov added. Residents of Tokmak and Polohy, as well as Kamyanka and Rosivka, were also told to pack their bags.

Some settlements named are up to 40 kilometeres behind the current front line. However, a Ukrainian counteroffensive is expected in the near future after months of reported preparations. One possible vector of advance is south through the Zaporizhzhia region towards the coast of the Sea of Azov.

Military analysts, such as Ben Hodges, former commanding general of the US Army in Europe, had said the potential benefit of this attempted route of advance would be to cut off the Crimean peninsula from other Russian-held territory in Ukraine. 

Ukraine says Russia wants to capture Bakhmut by Victory Day

Russia was deploying mercenary fighters from the Wagner group from the front line to Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, according to a senior Ukrainian official, who said Moscow hoped to capture the city in time for Russia's May 9 celebrations marking Nazi Germany's capitulation in World War II.

Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said in televised comments on Friday that Moscow was aiming to capture Bakhmut, where it has been engaged in a monthslong battle, in time for the May 9 celebration of Victory Day.

"The Russians are inclined towards symbolism and their key historic myth is May 9 and they really have set the objective of taking control of Bakhmut by this date," the Reuters news agency quoted Maliar as saying.

"We are now seeing them pulling [fighters] from the entire offensive line where the Wagner fighters were, they are pulling [them] to the Bakhmut direction."

The statements came shortly after Wagner chief Prigozhin said the group was withdrawing its forces from the contested city on May 10, transferring its posts to the Russian military due to what he said was a lack of ammunition.

Ukrainian MP: Zelenskyy touring Europe to secure arms for counteroffensive

During his Western Europe tour, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is aiming to mobilize stronger arms support for Ukraine ahead of its highly anticipated counteroffensive, said Lesia Vasylenko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament.

Vasylenko told DW on Friday that apart from weapons, Ukraine is also in need of ammunition and a strong air defense.

"We need our skies covered. And the only way to achieve this is with F-16 fighter jets or their equivalent."

Vasylenko dismissed fears that if supplied with fighter jets from western allies, Kyiv would escalate the conflict by striking Russia.

"Our only focus is to get rid of the Russian invaders in the territory of Ukraine, push them back, reinforce our borders, and continue existing as a free and democratic country," she said.

The MP also anticipated that the Ukrainian president was making use of his Europe tour to rally support for Ukraine's NATO membership once the war with Russia is over.

In comments from the Hague on Thursday, Zelenskyy said if his country does one day join NATO, it will be after the war.

German police ban Russian, Ukrainian flags on WWII end commemoration

German police have banned for the second year in a row any Russian or Ukrainian flags and uniforms as well as George ribbons at commemoration ceremonies at Berlin's Soviet memorials, marking the end of World War II. 

May 8 and May 9 mark the 78th anniversary of Germany's liberation from National Socialism. May 8 also marks Victory Day in Europe, when German forces surrendered to the Allies during World War II.

Berlin marks the 77th VE Day with memorial events around the city, including the Soviet war memorials in Tiergarten and Treptower Park on May 9, 2022.
German police said visits to memorial sites in Berlin were anticipated to mark the two daysImage: William Glucroft/DW

In a statement on Friday, German police said visits to memorial sites in Berlin were anticipated to mark the two days.

"The act of remembrance and respect for these memorials and memorials must also be preserved against the background of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war," the police said. It added that the war "must not break the mold in Berlin."

Alongside the flag and uniform bans, German police said playing marching or military songs was also forbidden, as well as making "exclamations that, given the current situation, are likely to condone, glorify or glorify the war in Ukraine.

Russia's Lavrov condemns alleged Kremlin drone attack as 'hostile act'

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov condemned on Friday the alleged drone attack on the Kremlin earlier this week as a "hostile act," accusing the US of having had knowledge of the attack.

"It was clearly a hostile act, it is clear that the Kyiv terrorists could not have committed it without the knowledge of their masters," Lavrov told a press conference in India. 

He vowed that Moscow would respond with "concrete actions."

The Kremlin on Wednesday accused Ukraine of a drone attack overnight in a foiled attempt to assassinate Russian leader Vladimir Putin, an allegation that could not be confirmed by independent sources.

Russian officials said Putin was not in the Kremlin at the time of the attack.

Ukraine said it had "nothing to do" with the attack.

Analysts are concerned Russia could use the alleged attack to justify an increase in military action in its war in Ukraine.

Fire in Russian oil refinery after drone attack

Another drone attack hit Russia' Ilsky oil refinery on Friday, causing a fire for the second time in days, Russian media reported, citing the emergency services. 

The attack is the second in days. Nobody was hurt in the fire. 

The oil refinery lies in southern Russia, just east of the Crimean Peninsula.

The region has been the site of several attacks on infrastructure.

More DW coverage on Russia's war in Ukraine

Ukrainians living in the occupied east are being forced to take Russian citizenship — otherwise they face deportation. Kyiv is sending mixed signals about what its citizens should do. 

Berlin police launched an investigation into how details about a possible visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the German capital reached the media.

rmt/wd (AFP, Reuters)