The head of a Russian private army, the Wagner Group, appears to be breaking from the Kremlin's talking points, saying President Vladimir Putin's goal of demilitarizing Ukraine has backfired.
Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a video published on Telegram that his forces are starting to pull out of Bakhmut, Ukraine, and releasing control to the Russian military, according tothe Associated Press.
Prigozhin also made bold estimates about the number of Russian casualties in the battle for Bakhmut, which has been the focus of much of the recent fighting, putting the figure at more than 20,000 troops. It's a stark contrast to Moscow's claims that the number is around 6,000.
The private army leader says Ukrainian forces have become stronger in the 15-month war thanks to Western weapons and training.
SEE MORE: Ukrainian PSYOP: Confuse Russia from Belgorod to Bakhmut
According to Oleksiy Danilov, the national security adviser for Ukraine, parts of the besieged city of Bakhmut are still under Ukrainian control, and Kyiv plans to hold on to the city for as long as possible.
"It was our strategic defense operation, which was successful for us, given that we held the territory for 10 months, where we were destroying them every day," Danilov told CNN.
On Thursday, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak hinted on Twitterthat Ukraine’s counteroffensive is underway.
"This is not a "single event" that will begin at a specific hour of a specific day with a solemn cutting of the red ribbon," Podolyak wrote. "These are dozens of different actions to destroy the #Russian occupation forces in different directions, which have already been taking place yesterday, are taking place today, and will continue tomorrow. Intensive destruction of enemy logistics is also a counteroffensive."
On May 11, the Associated Press reportedthat Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the delay in launching the offensive, stating that they would lose too many soldiers because Ukraine lacked enough Western weapons to succeed.
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