Founder of Wagner mercenary group calls on Ukraine’s Zelensky to order Bakhmut withdrawal

Vasco Cotovio, Olga Voitovych, Allegra Goodwin and Gianluca Mezzofiore.

The founder and financier of the Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin says his forces have all but surrounded Bakhmut, and is calling on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to order a withdrawal from the Donetsk city.

“The PMC Wagner units have almost surrounded Bakhmut, there is only one road left,” he said to Zelensky in a video filmed on the northern outskirts of Bakhmut and posted on his social media channels. “The pincers are tightening.”

They [Ukrainian soldiers] are fighting, but their lives near Bakhmut are short – a day or two. Give them a chance to leave the city. The city is in fact surrounded,” Prigozhin concluded.

Russian attempts at encircling the city seemed to have eased Thursday into Friday, according to the Institute for the Study of War, with focus shifting toward pushing Ukrainian forces to withdraw from the city.

What Kyiv is saying: Ukraine dismissed the video, with Ukraine’s Centre for Strategic Communication saying on Friday that “this is part of a disinformation campaign against the population of Ukraine to spread panic and provoke the top military and political leadership.”

The organization highlighted that Prighozin’s video was filmed on the outskirts of Bakhmut and not inside the city – matching CNN’s geolocation and analysis.

“The Russian command avoids visiting the front line, and it is not the first time that Prigozhin has imitated being on the front line while actually being in the rear,” the center added.

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