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    ISW: Prigozhin suggests that the Russian offensive is nearing culmination

    Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman who heads the Russian mercenary formation Wagner Group, is attempting to justify the inability of these forces to surround Bakhmut, speaking, among other things, of a planned Ukrainian counter-offensive “in five directions”. The US Institute for the Study of War writes about this in a recent report. At the same time, as noted, “Prigozhin may be implying that the overall Russian offensive in Ukraine is nearing culmination.”

    The ISW noted that in a recent interview, Prigozhin stated that the Ukrainian side is planning an offensive in five directions (from the Kharkiv region to Zaporizhzhia), estimating that it would begin in mid-April. The head of the Wagner Group called on Russian forces to stockpile ammunition and military equipment.

    According to ISW analysts, Prigozhin, by portraying Ukraine as capable of carrying out such a massive counter-offensive, probably wants to justify the fact that the Wagner Group has failed to encircle Bakhmut, a city in the Donetsk region.

    At the same time, “Prigozhin may be implying that the overall Russian offensive in Ukraine is nearing culmination,” the US think tank noted.

    “Prigozhin’s forecast about five separate Ukrainian counteroffensives is mirror-imaging (of Russia’s approach to warfare – ed.)—Russian forces have specialized in conducting multiple simultaneous advances along diverging axes that are not mutually supporting, which is one of the reasons for Russian failures in the war so far,” – ISW noted.

    Analysts on Prigozhin’s concerns

    According to experts, Prigozhin’s emphasis on the scale of the Ukrainian offensive he announced is intended to justify calls for Russian forces to stockpile ammunition and equipment and reflects his concern that shortfalls in this area are limiting Russian offensive capabilities.

    According to the ISW, Prigozhin’s statement may indicate that he believes Russian forces will soon lose the initiative and be pushed onto the defensive, and therefore unable to continue their faltering or failed attacks in the Kreminnaya, Bakhmut, Avdiyivka and Vuhladar regions.

    The think tank reiterated its earlier assessments that the ability of the Wagner Group to make tactical advances in Bakhmut is diminishing and therefore these formations are conducting attacks on more easily occupied localities to the north and north-west of the city. “Prigozhin likely seeks to frame these activities as securing flanks in preparation for Ukrainian counteroffensives,” the report assessed.

    Yevgeny Prigozhin also said that Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut numbered at least 19,000 men, which, according to the ISW, also served to justify the Wagner Group’s lack of progress.

    The think tank also concluded that relations between Prigozhin and the Russian regional authorities were becoming increasingly strained, as is to be seen, among other things, in the refusal to provide cemeteries for the burial of mercenaries in the village of Goryachy Klyuch in Krasnodar Krai.

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