The Chechen leader considered that Wagner’s withdrawal from the city would count as a loss of an experienced combat unit.
The Chief of Russia’s Wagner Group Private Military Company, Evgeny Prigozhin, submitted a request to Moscow on Saturday to allow him to hand over his forces’ positions in Bakhmut to the Akhmat battalion, led by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
“I ask you to issue a combat order before 00:00 on May 10 concerning the transfer of the positions of the Wagner paramilitary units in Bakhmut and its periphery, to the units of the Akhmat battalion,” he said in a letter to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Prigozhin announced on Friday in a Telegram video that his forces will be withdrawing from Bakhmut City in Donbas on May 10, stating that the reason for this measure is that his units have been suffering significant losses due to a lack of artillery munitions and that they will be retreating to the rear camps to “lick their wounds.”
Bakhmut, which is situated north of Donetsk, holds strategic significance for the course of the war. The city had long been the transportation route of food and supplies for the Ukrainian troops stationed in Donbass.
The Chechen commander said on Friday that if Wagner leaves Bakhmut then the “[Russian] General Staff will lose an experienced combat unit,” however the Akhmat battalion is ready to replace the paramilitary group and “advance and take the city.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had pledged earlier to defend “fortress Bakhmut” for as long as possible, calling on allies to intensify their support to help his troops do so.