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Ukraine unit says Russian forces flee Bakhmut outskirts

Ukraine’s Third Separate Assault Brigade claims to have has routed Russian forces from frontline territory near the eastern city of Bakhmut.

May 11, 2023
11 May 2023

A Ukrainian military unit says it has routed a Russian infantry brigade from frontline territory near Bakhmut, claiming to confirm an account by the head of Russia’s Wagner private army that the Russian forces had fled.

Russia has not commented on the reports that its 72nd Separate Motor-rifle Brigade had abandoned its positions on the southwestern outskirts of Bakhmut.

Russia’s ministry of defence did not immediately reply to a request for comment and Reuters was unable to independently confirm the situation on the ground.

A Russian brigade is typically formed of several thousand troops. 

The eastern Ukrainian city has been the primary target of Russia’s huge winter offensive.

Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has repeatedly accused Russia’s regular armed forces of failing to adequately support his private army leading the fight in Bakhmut, said on Tuesday that the Russian brigade had abandoned its positions.

“Our army is fleeing. The 72nd Brigade pissed away three square km this morning, where I had lost about 500 men,” Prigozhin said.

In a statement overnight, Ukraine’s Third Separate Assault Brigade said: “It’s official. Prigozhin’s report about the flight of Russia’s 72nd Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade from near Bakhmut and the ‘500 corpses’ of Russians left behind is true.”

“The Third Assault Brigade is grateful for the publicity about our success at the front.”

Early on Wednesday the Ukrainian unit, which was formed last year from the ultranationalist Azov Battalion, reposted a video of one of Azov’s founders, Andriy Biletsky, who said his forces had “defeated” the Russian brigade.

“In fact, the 6th and 7th squadrons of this brigade were almost entirely destroyed, brigade intelligence was destroyed, a large number of fighting vehicles were destroyed a considerable number of prisoners were taken,” he said.

“The attacks were implemented within a territory 3km wide and 2.6km deep, and this entire territory is completely liberated from the Russian occupying forces.”

Ukraine’s eastern military command said the Russian brigade had been heavily damaged although it said Russia was still trying all-out to capture the rest of the city.

“Unfortunately they have not destroyed the whole (Russian) brigade yet, two companies have been seriously damaged there,” Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesman for the eastern military command, said in televised comments.

“The situation (in Bakhmut) remains difficult because for the enemy, despite all the white noise Prigozhin is trying to create, it (Bakhmut) is (still) the main direction of attack, the main coveted target,” he said.

Since last week, Prigozhin has repeatedly threatened to pull Wagner’s forces out of Bakhmut unless Russia’s regular armed forces send his troops more ammunition. 

In his latest remarks on Wednesday he said his troops were receiving only 10 per cent of the shells they need.

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