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Days after declaring victory in Bakhmut, the Wagner private military company said on Thursday it was handing over the Ukrainian town to Russian forces, which must now try to capture it without the help of brutal mercenaries , on which she has become dependent. ,

Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, suggested that Russia’s regular troops could expect no more help from the group – at least, not in Bakhmut. three minute video Mr. Prigozhin is shown visiting Wagner’s positions in the city and telling his fighters to hand them over to the Russian troops.

“Leave them the soap, but take your toothbrush,” he says.

Wagner’s return could open a new phase of the months-long conflict for Bakhmut, testing whether Russian forces can win a hard-fought victory against Ukrainian forces who has reached the outskirts of the city And are preparing to launch a comprehensive counter-offensive.

“Now the Russian General Staff must find sufficient reserves to fill the resulting gap,” Dmitry Kuznets, a military analyst at the Russian news website Meduza, said in response to written questions. “This is in addition to deterring a Ukrainian invasion, which would also require a significant number of reserves.”

Ukraine has acknowledged that despite a firefight dedicated to capturing Bakhmut, where thousands are believed to have been killed, Russia now controls almost the entire city. He says his forces are turning their attention to making it difficult for Russia to capture Bakhmut or move deeper into eastern Ukraine.

On Thursday, Hanna Maliyar, a deputy Ukrainian defense minister, said Ukrainian troops controlled an area southwest of Bakhmut and were trying to make further gains on the outskirts.

“In the Bakhmut direction, the enemy is trying to stop our advance by firing artillery,” Ms. Maliar said. “Now the enemy is pulling up additional units to the flanks for reinforcements.”

He added that regular Russian army units had replaced Wagner fighters in the suburbs of Bakhmut, while Wagner forces remained inside the city.

Restorations around the city took place on Thursday as Russia and Ukraine engaged in drone wars.

Ukraine’s military said it shot down dozens of Russian drones targeted across the country before dawn, while Russian officials said they foiled a Ukrainian air and sea drone attack on Crimea’s Sevastopol, home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet Was. ,

Even as its forces in recent weeks have reinforced a maze of fortified defensive positions along hundreds of miles of farmland, fields and river banks, according to Ukrainian officials, Moscow has threatened Ukrainian forces to retaliate. There have also been aerial bombardments to try to disrupt military preparations. Military Analysts.

Ukraine has spent weeks targeting key Russian command and control centers, rail lines, airfields and other military installations in the occupied territories, with the apparent aim of limiting Moscow’s ability to move troops and equipment quickly and effectively. To do.

Mykhailo Podolić, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said on Thursday that the recent military actions were part of a Ukrainian retaliation, which he said would not be marked by a “single incident”.

Mr Podolić said there are “dozens of different actions” in one post on twitter“For the purpose of destroying the occupying forces in different directions, which was already happening yesterday, is happening today and will continue tomorrow.”

“The intensive destruction of enemy logistics is also a counterattack,” he said.

Ukraine’s deputy intelligence chief Vadim Skibitsky said that disrupting Russian military movement in Crimea was essential to the Ukrainian operation. “Their reinforcement and redistribution of troops, the supply of ammunition and equipment to the occupied territories all pass through Crimea,” he told the German publication Welt in an interview published on Thursday.

Crimea holds immense symbolic and military value to the government of President Vladimir V. Putin, who annexed the peninsula in 2014 and described it as a centerpiece which he sees as the national restoration of Russia.

On Thursday, the Kremlin-installed governor of Crimea said several Ukrainian drone attacks across the region had been thwarted. And the Russian-appointed governor of the Crimean port of Sevastopol said two aerial drones were shot down by small arms and several maritime drones were disabled using electronic warfare equipment that jammed their signals.

The claims could not be independently verified.

The capture of Bakhmut gave Moscow a rare and very costly victory, and made it clear how dependent it had become on the Wagner forces and their outspoken leader, who has been fiercely critical of the Russian military.

For many supporters of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Wagner Group, with your strict discipline And agile decision-making, plagued by cumbersome bureaucracy, has become a model for what the Russian military should look like.

In recent days, buoyed by the victory at Bakhmut, Mr. Prigozhin has become more vocal still, warning the Russian elite that they face the prospect of a popular uprising if they do not put the country on a real war footing. Are.

But Wagner and the Russian army are also dependent on each other for all the infighting. While Mr. Prigozhin has some of the best assault troops fighting on Russia’s side, the Defense Ministry has a massive stockpile of massive weapons – much to Mr. Prigozhin’s recent frustration,

While the Russian military leadership may prefer not to rely on Wagner again for help, military analyst Mr. Kuznets said, Moscow’s lack of sufficient troops makes an eventual redeployment of mercenaries in Ukraine “inevitable.”

At Bakhmut on Thursday, Mr. Prigozhin indicated that Wagner’s removal would take several days.

“We will rest and get ready,” he said in the latest video. “And then we’ll get a new assignment.”

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