Ex-US commander predicts ‘disaster’ for Wagner chief, his men in Bakhmut within days

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A former US commander predicted on Sunday that Russian Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and his men will face “disaster” in Ukraine over the coming days, just as the mercenary boss claimed to have captured the city of Bakhmut and that he would pull out his men by Thursday and hand over the reins to the Russian military.

Prigozhin reiterated on Sunday that his forces had successfully captured Bakhmut City and were planning to establish defensive positions and pass control to Russian armed forces by May 25, at which time he would pull his men out of the battlefield.

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However, Ukrainian officials gave a conflicting account disputing the Russian claim. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stressed on Sunday that Bakhmut was not completely under Russian control. And Ukrainian officials said that fighting for the city continued and added that Ukrainian troops were encircling Bakhmut and making advances along the outskirts of the eastern city.

Mark Hertling, former commander of US ground forces in Europe, said on Twitter: “As many of us had said multiple times, Prigozhin is not a professional soldier and neither are his troops. Congratulations, Yevgeny, you’ve put the Wagner flag in the center of the city. And…you’re surrounded.”

He added: “Disaster for Wagner over the last 5 months…and next week.”

Washington had estimated earlier this month that at least 10,000 Wagner mercenaries have been killed during the past five months.

Hertling’s assessment comes at a time when Ukrainian military officials report encircling Bakhmut and continuing the fight against the Russians.

The commander of Ukrainian ground forces Colonel general Oleksandr Syrskyi said that Ukrainian troops were “advancing on the flanks in the suburbs of Bakhmut and are close to tactically encircling the city.”

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said that Ukrainian troops “took the city in a semi-encirclement.” She said: “The enemy failed to surround Bakhmut, and they lost part of the dominant heights around the city… That is, the advance of our troops in the suburbs along the flanks, which is still ongoing, greatly complicates the enemy’s presence in Bakhmut.”

Additionally, the spokesman for Ukraine’s Eastern Group of Forces, Serhii Cherevaty, said: “The president correctly said that the city has, in fact, been razed to the ground. The enemy is being destroyed every day by massive artillery and aviation strikes, and our units report that the situation is extremely difficult. Our military keep fortifications and several premises in the southwestern part of the city. Heavy fighting is underway.”

Read more:

Wagner chief's Bakhmut win only symbolic, controlled withdrawal unlikely: Think tank

Head of Russia’s Wagner says all of Bakhmut captured as promised, will leave May 25

Ukraine’s army says Wagner chief wants to ‘flee’ Bakhmut with ‘tail between his legs’

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