Former Russian Commander Rips ‘Strategic Senselessness’ of Bakhmut Victory
ON 5/20/23 AT 12:29 PM EDT00:49
Former Russian commander Igor Girkin knocked the “strategic senselessness” of Russia’s claimed Bakhmut victory on Saturday.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner Group, a paramilitary unit, said his troops took full control of Bakhmut on Saturday following months of fighting over the Donetsk city. His claims, which could not be independently verified, were dismissed by Ukraine. Bakhmut has emerged as a major focal point in the Russia-Ukraine war, launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin last February, as both sides have engaged in intense, bloody fighting over the city.
As Prigozhin celebrated the alleged victory, Girkin took to Telegram to question whether taking control of Bakhmut was worth the losses Russia incurred throughout the battles.
Girkin, who rose to prominence during the Russian annexation of Crimea and was found guilty last year of participating in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, has become a leading voice among Russian nationalists who support the Ukraine war, but have become increasingly critical of Moscow’s military leadership over the stagnant nature of the Russian invasion.
“Bakhmut was ‘homed,” he wrote. “It does not excite me. Taking into account what I know about losses, wasted resources, lost time and the initial understanding of the strategic senselessness of this operation.”
Russian forces allegedly suffered significant losses in Bakhmut. Although the full extent of these losses remains unclear, the White House earlier in May estimated that at least 20,000 Russian troops had been killed in the Bakhmut region over a five-month period.
Meanwhile, military analysts have questioned whether Bakhmut would really deliver Russia a strategic victory. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in March a Russian victory in the city would be “more of a symbolic value,” rather than really indicating a change of tide in the war.
In a separate Telegram post, Girkin elaborated on his criticisms of Russia’s military leadership.
“The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation did not take anything at all, but ‘washed themselves in blood’ in abundance near Avdeevka, in Maryinka and Ugledar,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, not those who planned and directed these operations from large headquarters, but the blood of front-line soldiers and officers, mobilized and volunteers.”
Meanwhile, Prigozhin alleged his Bakhmut victory in a post on Telegram.
“At noon on the 20 May, 2023, Bakhmut was fully taken. We have completely taken the whole city, from house to house,” he wrote, adding his troops would hand Bakhmut over to Russian forces next week.
Ukraine Rejects Claims of Wagner Victory in Bakhmut
Ukraine, however, has disputed the claims that Russia has won Bakhmut.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar wrote on Telegram on Saturday, “There is heavy fighting in Bakhmut. The situation is critical. At the same time, our troops are defending in the ‘Aircraft’ area. As of now, our defense forces control certain industrial and infrastructure facilities in the area and the private sector.”
Colonel Serhii Cherevatyi told Reuters that Prigozhin’s statement is “not true,” adding that “our units are fighting in Bakhmut.”
Meanwhile, the British Ministry of Defense said earlier in the week that Ukraine had made tactical advances, and on Saturday said Russia was planning to send more troops to Bakhmut.