Thursday saw a shift in Russia's military presence in the outskirts of Bakhmut, with Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar revealing that Russian regular troops have taken over from Wagner private military units. However, the private mercenaries remain active within the city, which has seen extensive damage in the ongoing conflict.
Maliar's disclosure lends credibility to earlier statements from Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner Group, who announced that his forces had started their withdrawal from Bakhmut in Eastern Ukraine. Prigozhin confirmed that his group had commenced the handover of their positions to regular Russian troops early Thursday, with the transition expected to continue until June 1.
Maliar stated on the Telegram app, "In Bakhmut's outskirts, the enemy has replaced Wagner units with regular army forces. Inside the city itself Wagner fighters remain."
Simultaneously, Ukrainian military spokesperson Serhiy Cherevatyi noticed a reduction in the number of Russian attacks in the area over the past three days, indicating a potential correlation with the ongoing troop regrouping. He stated that the area had experienced two military engagements in the past 24 hours, notwithstanding the continued shelling.
"We can definitely note a reduction in attacks and possibly this is linked to their regrouping. It is clear that we have inflicted heavy losses and they need this (to regroup)," Cherevatyi said.
Maliar further noted that Russia was also reinforcing its positions on the flanks of Bakhmut, executing shellings on Ukrainian forces in an attempt to halt Ukrainian progress towards the north and south of the city.
The tumultuous city of Bakhmut was declared captured by Prigozhin last week, following the most prolonged and lethal battle of the war thus far. This latest update in the dynamics of the conflict raises new questions about the future trajectory of the situation in Eastern Ukraine.