April 29, 2023
Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin threatened to withdraw Wagner forces from Bakhmut if the Russian military command fails to provide more ammunition to the Wagner mercenaries. Prigozhin stated in an interview with a Kremlin-affiliated milblogger on April 29 that the Wagner mercenaries will continue to fight in Bakhmut but will need to “withdraw in an organized manner or stay and die” if the situation does immediately not improve. Prigozhin stated that Wagner needs about 80,000 shells per day — its previous shell allowance prior to apparent Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) efforts to reduce Wagner’s influence. Prigozhin added that Wagner is only receiving 800 of the 4,000 shells per day that it is currently requesting. Prigozhin claimed that Wagner and Deputy Commander of Russian Forces in Ukraine Army General Sergei Surovikin developed a plan to “grind” the Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut that deprived Ukraine of its initiative on the battlefield. Prigozhin’s mention of Surovikin is likely an attempt to publicly affiliate with Surovikin as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s favor is shifting away from Chief of the Russian General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov’s network. Prigozhin is likely attempting to regain access to more ammunition as Putin is once again reshuffling the Russian military leadership in a way that may favor Prigozhin.
Prigozhin also continued his efforts to convince the Kremlin to go over to the defensive in eastern Ukraine. Prigozhin claimed that the Ukrainian counteroffensive could take place before May 15 but that the Russian military is not rushing to prepare to repel attacks. Prigozhin’s threat to withdraw from Bakhmut may also indicate that Prigozhin fears that the Russian positions in Bakhmut’s rear are vulnerable to counterattacks.
Prigozhin offered a position as First Deputy Commander of Wagner forces to former Russian Deputy Defense Minister for Logistics Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, who was reportedly dismissed from his position on April 27. Prigozhin claimed on April 29 that the Wagner commanders’ council decided to offer Mizintsev a position as deputy commander under Wagner commander Dmitry Utkin. Prigozhin also stated in the interview that Mizintsev was operating on the frontlines and was fired for his intractability. Russian milbloggers previously claimed that Mizintsev’s dismissal could have resulted from the Russian Northern Fleet’s lack of supplies revealed by Wagner-affiliated Commander of the Russian Airborne Forces Mikhail Teplinsky’s readiness checks. Mizintsev’s affiliation with Wagner is unclear at this time. It is possible that his firing was an attempt to improve military supplies to the forces within or affiliated with Teplinsky’s command — such as Wagner forces. Prigozhin has previously mockingly offered command positions to figures he dislikes, such as former Russian officer Igor Girkin, and Prigozhin’s offer may have been an attempt to humiliate Mizintsev. Unconfirmed Russian sources claimed that Teplinsky assumed the position of deputy commander of the Russian forces in Ukraine, and Mizintsev’s dismissal, if it occurred, suggests that Teplinsky has sway with Putin that allows him to shape decisions about command changes.
Ukrainian forces likely attacked an oil storage facility in Sevastopol reportedly with a wave of Mugin-5 UAVs on April 29. Footage posted on April 29 shows a large fire at an oil storage facility at Kozacha Bay on April 29. Occupation governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhaev stated on April 29 that a Ukrainian UAV struck an oil tank near Kozacha Bay and caused a fire over 1,000 square meters in extent. A prominent Russian milblogger based in Sevastopol reported that two Ukrainian UAVs destroyed four fuel tanks. Another Russian military blogger reported that at least 10 Ukrainian Mugin-5 drones conducted the attack from Shkolny Airfield in Odesa and that a combination of electronic warfare, small arms, and Pantsir-S1 air defense systems downed most of the UAVs upon approach to their target. Crimean occupation head Sergey Aksyonov stated the attack did not result in any casualties. Ukraine has not formally taken credit for the attack. A Ukrainian intelligence official claimed the attack destroyed 10 oil tanks with a total capacity of 40,000 tons of fuel and that the fuel destroyed was intended for use in the Black Sea Fleet. This official also insinuated the attack was retribution for the Russian missile strike against Uman on April 28. Some social media users noted that the Black Sea Fleet’s main fuel depot is in a different location on the east end of Sevastopol Bay. Razvozhaev claimed that the fire will not affect the supply of fuel in Sevastopol as the destroyed reserves were not used to fuel gas stations. Some milbloggers argued that this attack highlights the effectiveness of using low-cost drones for swarm attacks and underscores the need for Russian forces to saturate the Crimean air space with more air defense systems.
- Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin threatened to withdraw Wagner forces from Bakhmut if the Russian military command fails to provide more ammunition to Wagner mercenaries.
- Prigozhin also continued his efforts to convince the Kremlin to go over to the defensive in eastern Ukraine.
- Prigozhin offered the position of First Deputy Commander of Wagner forces, possibly sarcastically, to former Russian Deputy Defense Minister for Logistics Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev who was reportedly dismissed from his position on April 27.
- Ukrainian forces attacked an oil storage facility in Sevastopol reportedly with a wave of Mugin-5 UAVs on April 29.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks on the Svatove-Kreminna line.
- Russian forces made limited gains in Bakhmut and continued ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
- The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces conducted a sea-based missile strike against the command post of the Ukrainian Kherson Group of Forces. Ukrainian officials have so far not confirmed this claim.
- The Russian MoD continues to pursue measures to expedite the conscription process and increase the difficulty of evading summonses.
- Russian occupation authorities and border area officials have expanded security measures and filtration efforts likely in anticipation of increased Ukrainian partisan activity in support of a potential Ukrainian counteroffensive.