Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner PMC, is trying to create pretexts to explain why his mercenaries cannot complete the encirclement of Bakhmut, according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
Details: Analysts have pointed out that Prigozhin asserted in a recent interview that Ukrainian forces are preparing to launch counteroffensives in five separate directions: into Belgorod Oblast, in the Kreminna area, in the Bakhmut area, towards Donetsk City, and in Zaporizhia Oblast. Prigozhin stated that Ukrainian forces would launch these operations in mid-April and urged Russian forces to prepare for these counteroffensives by preserving ammunition and equipment.
ISW experts believe Prigozhin likely depicted Ukrainian forces as having enough combat power to launch a massive theatre-wide counteroffensive to justify the Wagner Group’s inability to complete an envelopment or encirclement of Bakhmut.
ISW previously assessed that Wagnerites are likely conducting opportunistic attacks on easier-to-seize settlements further north and northwest of Bakhmut as their ability to make tactical gains in Bakhmut itself diminishes, and Prigozhin likely seeks to frame these activities as securing flanks in preparation for Ukrainian counteroffensives.
“Prigozhin’s depiction of imminent Ukrainian counteroffensives also implies that he believes that Russian forces will lose the initiative to Ukraine soon and be forced onto the defensive rather than continuing stalled or unsuccessful offensives in the Kreminna, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, or Vuhledar areas,” ISW added.
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