Wagner chief accuses Putin of ‘misleading Russians’ over Ukraine offensive

The chief of mercenary group Wagner accused Moscow of deceiving Russians about the course of Ukraine’s offensive and pointed to Kyiv’s progress on the battlefield, AFP reports.

Early this month Kyiv’s military launched its counteroffensive in the east and south of the country in an effort to claw back territory lost since last year. Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said that Ukraine’s offensive is failing.

But the Wagner chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose forces had for months led an assault for towns in eastern Ukraine including Bakhmut, accused the defence ministry of not telling the truth and losing territory to Ukrainian troops.

“They are misleading the Russian people,” he said in an audio message released by his spokespeople.

A number of villages, including Piatykhatky has been lost, Prigozhin said, pointing to a lack of arms and ammunition.

“Huge chunks have been handed over to the enemy,” he said, adding: “All of this is being totally hidden from everyone,”

“One day Russia will wake up to discover that Crimea too has been handed over to Ukraine,” he said.

Kyiv has reported modest gains, retaking eight settlements in the first cautious steps of a fightback against entrenched Russian positions.

Ukrainian counteroffensive

During a telethon on June 19, Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said over the previous week Ukrainian recaptured territory climbed to 113-square kilometres (44sq miles), only 13sq km (6sq miles) more than what Ukraine claimed it reconquered a week earlier.

“The Russians are putting up a furious resistance,” she said, pointing out Russian troops fired an estimated 5,800 artillery rounds and 277,000 bullet rounds in just a week.

Ukraine’s offensives were focused on Bakhmut and Donetsk city in the east. In the south, at the border between Donetsk and Zaporizhizhia regions, Ukraine advanced 7km (3 miles) into Russian-held territory towards Melitopol, and it maintained an open front in western Zaporizhizhia, south of Orikhiv.

Maliar estimated killed or wounded Russians at 4,600 and destroyed equipment at 400 pieces of hardware.

Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu said Ukrainian forces launched 263 attacks against Russian positions since June 4. “All attacks have been repelled,” he said.

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