The leader of the Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin has directly appealed to the Russian Ministry of Defence not to abandon positions around the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
A rift between the Wagner mercenary group and the Russian military appears to be deepening.
The leader of the paramilitary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has accused the military of retreating and leaving his men at the mercy of Ukrainian soldiers in the door-to-door battle raging in and around the town of Bakhmut in Donetsk province.
In a recorded message he said: "Unfortunately, units of the Russian Defence Ministry have withdrawn up to 570 metres to the north of Bakhmut, exposing our flanks."
The message was clearly addressed to Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
"I am publicly appealing to the top commanders of the Defence Ministry because my letters are not being read. [...] Please do not give up the flanks, do not give up the village of Sakko i Vantsetti," Prigozhin said.
Shoigu was seen in a video released on Thursday inspecting a military base "in the western military district" of Russia where servicemen were being trained. He made no immediate response to the Wagner leader's claims.
Meanwhile, Russia continues missile attacks on targets in various Ukrainian cities.
Kyiv claims to have shot down 29 of 30 missiles it says were launched at the capital overnight Wednesday.
The attack was carried out by strategic bombers from the Caspian region, probably using cruise missiles, and Russia later deployed reconnaissance craft over the capital.
It was the ninth time Moscow has targeted the city this month.
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