Day 438 of the Invasion of Ukraine: U-Turn - "Wagner" remains in Bakhmut, Moscow will send them Weapons
Day 438 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:
- U-turn: "Wagner" remains in Bakhmut, Moscow will send them weapons
- BBC: Panic as Russia evacuates town near Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
- A Russian fighter jet has intercepted an unarmed Polish plane over the Black Sea
- Piontkovsky: Private military companies in Russia are preparing for a mafia battle after the war
- The Institute for the Study of War: Prigozhin and Kadyrov announced their intention to have Chechen fighters replace "Wagner" in the battle for Bakhmut
- Explosions in Crimea after suspected Ukrainian drone attacks
- Ukraine fears that the counter-offensive will not meet the hopes of the West
- Russia blamed Ukraine for the attack on Zakhar Prilepin
U-turn: "Wagner" remains in Bakhmut, Moscow will send them weapons
The head of the Russian private army "Wagner" Yevgeny Prigozhin announced that Moscow would send him ammunition to continue the fighting in Bakhmut. This in all likelihood means that Prigozhin's fighters will continue with hostilities at the hottest military location of the war in Ukraine at the moment.
Prigozhin regularly criticized the Russian authorities for a lack of support at the front.
On Thursday, Yevgeny Prigozhin attacked his Russian counterparts in a terrifying, expletive-filled tirade filmed amid dozens of corpses of Wagner soldiers, we recall. The next day he announced that Wagner's fighters would leave Bakhmut by May 10. Today, however, Prigozhin said Moscow had agreed to provide the supplies "necessary for the continuation of hostilities" in the city.
Prigozhin's apparent u-turn is no great surprise. He is a person who seeks publicity and has not carried out his previous threats, adds the BBC.
Russian troops and fighters from the private military company "Wagner" have been trying to capture Bakhmut for months - despite its dubious strategic value.
Western officials believe thousands of Russian soldiers and Wagner fighters have died in the fighting, and the eastern Ukrainian city has become a symbolic prize.
In his new statement, Prigozhin claimed that General Sergei Surovikin, who commanded Russian forces in Ukraine between October and January, was appointed to liaise between the regular Russian army and Wagner's mercenaries.
"This is the only man with the star of an army general who knows how to fight," declared Prigozhin. "No other army general is sane".
BBC: Panic as Russia evacuates town near Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
Russia has caused "crazy panic" after it began evacuating a town near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, a Ukrainian official said, quoted by the BBC.
Russian authorities have ordered people to leave 18 towns in Zaporizhzhia region, including Energodar near the plant, ahead of an expected offensive by Kyiv.
NPP personnel remain in place.
The Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, said a pile-up of thousands of cars leaving the area had caused a five-hour wait.
At the same time, the UN nuclear watchdog - the IAEA - warned that a "major nuclear accident" could occur.
Rafael Grossi, director of the IAEA, said the situation at the plant in Zaporizhzhia "is becoming increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous."
The IAEA's statement said that "while operational personnel remains on site" there is "deep concern about the increasingly tense, stressful and challenging conditions for staff and their families".
The announcement adds that the IAEA experts at the plant have "received information that the announced evacuation of residents from the nearby town of Energodar, where most of the employees live, has begun."
On Friday, the Russian-appointed regional head Yevgeny Balitsky said that "over the past few days the enemy has intensified shelling of populated areas near the front line."
"That's why I decided to evacuate first and foremost the children and parents, the elderly, the disabled and hospital patients," he wrote on social media.
The IAEA has previously issued warnings about the safety of the plant, which Russia seized in the early days of its invasion last year after shelling caused a temporary power outage.
In March, the IAEA warned that after power lines failed, the plant was running on diesel generators to maintain vital cooling systems.
Since Russia began its invasion in February 2022, the number of employees at the plant has decreased, the IAEA said, "but site management has stated that staffing is sufficient for the safe operation of the plant."
Russian troops occupy a large part of the Zaporizhzhia region, but not the regional capital Zaporizhzhia, which is located northeast of Energodar across the Dnieper dam, the BBC recalls
On Sunday, the Ukrainian General Staff said civilians were being evacuated from the towns of Berdyansk and Primorsk, which are further into Russian-controlled territory.
The exiled mayor of Melitopol wrote on Telegram that shops in the evacuated areas had run out of goods and medicine and that hospitals were discharging patients to the streets amid fears that electricity and water supplies could be cut off if Ukraine attacked the region.
He also says that two-thirds of the evacuation convoys - allegedly made up of civilians - are made up of retreating Russian soldiers. The BBC cannot verify this claim.
"The partial evacuation that they announced is going too fast and there is a possibility that they are preparing for provocations and (therefore) focusing on civilians," Fedorov adds.
A Russian fighter jet has intercepted an unarmed Polish plane over the Black Sea
A Russian Su-35 fighter jet intercepted a Polish plane carrying out a Frontex mission over the Black Sea, AFP reported.
The war machine has passed three times to the reconnaissance aircraft, whose mission is part of the activities of the European Border Protection Agency. According to the Polish border service, he entered "without any radio contact in the area of operations" and flew directly in front of the plane's nose, about 5 meters away.
This resulted in severe turbulence for the Polish flying machine, resulting in the two pilots briefly losing control of the aircraft - and consequently altitude. After that, however, they managed to successfully land it in Romania with all 5 crew members.
The Polish plane is unarmed - its task is to monitor for migratory risks. He was flying about 60 kilometers east of Romania's airspace, in international airspace. His mission is from April 19 to May 17, part of a Frontex operation jointly conducted with Poland, Spain and Sweden.
In recent years, such incidents between military aircraft of Russia and NATO countries have been increasing. Recently, another Russian fighter jet with similar maneuvers caused an American drone to crash.
Piontkovsky: Private military companies in Russia are preparing for a mafia battle after the war
Dozens of new private military companies similar to PMC "Wagner" are being created in Russia - but not for the war in Ukraine, but for the clashes after the impending defeat. This was announced by the Russian publicist and political scientist Andrey Piontkovski in an interview with UNIAN.
"This is an unprecedented phenomenon in world military history. PMCs are not needed for the war in Ukraine, they only interfere with the basic principle of military theory - unified command. They are created for a mafia war after the loss," he believes.
Once dictator Vladimir Putin is out of power, the entire system of property—his legacy—will collapse, Piontkovski notes, because there is no concept of private property at the top.
"It's mob ownership -- some agreements, some concepts that ultimately come down to the presidential administration. With the fall of this administration, all that ownership will be abandoned. And they're all lined up at a low start, ready to race for this huge legacy."
According to the political scientist, the "chef" of the dictator - the head of "Wagner" Yevgeny Prigozhin - it is no coincidence that he calls the head of the Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov and the Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu "traitors". He wants to turn the Russians against the elite in Moscow, to convince the crowd that they are the main enemies who robbed Russia.
Prigozhin himself constantly complains about the Russian Armed Forces - claiming that his Wagner forces are not getting enough ammunition, despite being able to capture Bakhmut, the currently key disputed area in Ukraine. According to Zelensky's advisor Mykhailo Podolyak, Prigozhin's people no longer receive funding from the Russian budget.
The Institute for the Study of War: Prigozhin and Kadyrov announced their intention to have Chechen fighters replace "Wagner" in the battle for Bakhmut
The owner of the Russian private military company "Wagner" Yevgeny Prigozhin and the leader of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov announced their intention to have Chechen fighters replace the militia of a businessman considered close to President Vladimir Putin in the battle for Bakhmut, the Institute for the Study of War wrote today.
Yesterday, Prigozhin published his letter to the Minister of Defense of Russia, Sergei Shoigu, requesting that the "Wagner" positions in the area of the eastern Ukrainian city be occupied by the Chechen "Akhmat" battalion.
According to the text, this will happen exactly at midnight on May 10, when, according to the Russian businessman, his militia will have completely exhausted its fighting potential. Prigozhin expresses confidence that the Akhmat Battalion can capture the remaining 2.5 square kilometers of Bakhmut that remain under Ukrainian control, the US think tank noted in its daily briefing on the progress of the war.
Kadyrov responded to Prigozhin by saying that he had sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing his readiness to take Bakhmut and claiming that Chechen military units were already working with the Russian Ministry of Defense on a strategy to take the Wagner positions in this section of the front.
In its briefing yesterday, the Institute for the Study of War suggested that the Bakhmut offensive appears to be no longer a priority for Russia at the expense of defense preparations against an expected Ukrainian counter-offensive. That puts the Wagner group and its owner in a potentially difficult position, according to the Washington-based think tank.
Explosions in Crimea after suspected Ukrainian drone attacks
A number of explosions went off in several locations in the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula early this morning, Russian and Ukrainian media reported. According to Russian social networks, air defense systems have activated and are repelling attacks.
Ukraine has sent a series of drones into the Crimean peninsula, with Russian air defenses shooting down at least one over the port of Sevastopol. This was reported by a Telegram channel associated with Russian law enforcement agencies. According to preliminary information, no one was injured.
According to Ukrainian monitoring channels on Telegram, explosions occurred in Sevastopol and Saky, where Russia has an air base, as well as several other locations on the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.
An air alert was declared over most of eastern Ukraine last night. The warning was aimed at regions east of Vinnytsia to Kherson Oblast and Crimea.
Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency has expressed concern over the tense situation surrounding Ukraine's nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, which is located near the front line of the war. The situation is becoming increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous at the Russian-occupied nuclear power plant, the head of the agency, Rafael Grossi, said last night.
The pro-Moscow administration in Zaporizhzhia region announced an evacuation on Friday, including in the town of Energodar, where most of the nuclear plant's employees live. Grossi says employees will remain on site, but the situation is becoming "increasingly tense, stressful and challenging" for them and their families. According to the UN nuclear watchdog, constant stress can lead to errors and accidents at the nuclear power plant. Grossi again called for an agreement between Ukraine and Russia to prevent the largest nuclear power plant in Europe from a disaster.
At the same time, "Washington Post" quotes the Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov, according to whom the expectations of the counteroffensive are overestimated by the world and such expectations can lead to "emotional disappointment".
The publication also published what was stated by President Volodymyr Zelensky, who indicated that Ukraine would be ready to launch an offensive as soon as it received the weapons agreed with its partners.
An air alert was also declared this morning in most of the country, and authorities reported that a reconnaissance drone had been intercepted in Kyiv’s airspace and had been destroyed.
Ukraine fears that the counter-offensive will not meet the hopes of the West
The military leadership of Ukraine is trying to convince the West to limit its expectations of the planned counter-offensive, as it is not certain that it will be able to turn the tide of the conflict, writes the American "Washington Post", quoted by BTA, referring to interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.
"Expectations for our counteroffensive have been overestimated by the world. Most people expect something big," Reznikov said. According to him, such expectations can lead to "emotional disappointment".
Representatives of the authorities in Kyiv fear that, in case of failure, Ukraine may lose supplies of military aid, and the West may try to force the country to sit down at the negotiating table with Russia, the Washington Post writes. The newspaper points out that, according to a number of experts, it would be difficult or even impossible to push Russia back to the positions it held before the start of the conflict in February last year.
"I think the more victories we have on the battlefield, the more people will believe in us, which means we will get more help," Zelensky said. He indicated that Ukraine will be ready to launch an offensive "as soon as it receives the weapons that have been agreed with the partners." The deadline can still be moved depending on weather conditions, Zelensky specified.
According to Reznikov, the "first Ukrainian assault group" is more than 90% ready for a counteroffensive, but some servicemen have not yet completed their training abroad. The main need of the Ukrainian armed forces at the moment is air defense systems, he stressed.
Zelensky added that Kyiv would not wait for the delivery of fighter jets to launch a counteroffensive. "It would be a lot easier" if Ukraine had the F-16. Now we lose in the sky," he said.
Earlier, the National Security Council strategic communications coordinator at the White House, John Kirby, said that the US is not yet considering the possibility of supplying Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets. US President Joe Biden also said the delivery of US fighter jets "is not a priority right now". At the same time, on March 4, the NBC television channel reported the arrival of two Ukrainian pilots in the United States for possible training on Western military aircraft, including F-16 fighters.
Russia blamed Ukraine for the attack on Zakhar Prilepin
Russia blamed Ukraine for the attack on the Russian writer Zakhar Prilepin. Yesterday his car was blown up in the Nizhny Novgorod region.
The writer was injured and his driver was killed.
Hours after the attack, a man of Ukrainian origin was detained. According to investigators in Russia, he admitted to placing the bomb under Prilepin's car.
The writer is a supporter of the Russian president and a supporter of the war in Ukraine. He is also a member of a nationalist group.
The attack is the latest in a series of attacks and sabotage in Russia that Moscow blames on Kyiv.
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