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- The eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut was bombed in an apparent incendiary attack on Friday.
- Video shows the city ablaze with a bright glow, demonstrating Russia’s “scorched earth” tactics.
- The attack began after news broke that Wagner mercenaries aiding Russia would withdraw from the region.
The eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, already the site of heavy fighting, was bombed in an apparent incendiary attack on Friday, highlighting Russia’s brutal “scorched earth” tactics in the war just hours after news broke that Wagner Group mercenaries aiding Putin would be withdrawn from the region.
Videos circulated on social media early Friday, showing the Ukrainian city ablaze with a glow that prompted military analysts to suggest chemical weapons had been used. White phosphorous weapons have been deployed by Russians against Ukrainian targets since shortly after the invasion began.
—SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES OF UKRAINE (@SOF_UKR) May 5, 2023
“Russia has been using incendiary munitions in Bakhmut for months,” Rob Lee, a senior fellow for the Foreign Policy Research Institute, tweeted alongside video of the attack.
The FPRI did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
“It’s just hell,” a telegram account for the city of Bakhmut posted of the situation in the region, which has been the site of bloody battles as Ukrainians fight to keep Wagner mercenaries from taking control of the eastern city. “Our soldiers are keeping the situation under control as best they can.”
—Illia Ponomarenko 🇺🇦 (@IAPonomarenko) May 5, 2023
Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s commander of ground forces, said Russia’s “scorched earth” tactics in Bakhmut have pushed Ukrainian troops out of the city center and have forced them to rely on precarious supply routes to deliver arms and personnel, The Wall Street Journal reported last month.
However, as one of the longest and bloodiest battles in the war, Russian forces have lost at least five soldiers for every Ukrainian soldier killed while defending Bakhmut, a military official with NATO told CNN.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner Group, has compared the ongoing Bakhmut battle to a “meat grinder,” Insider previously reported, with the mercenary leader acknowledging that his men were dying at extremely high rates as they dealt with ammunition shortages. He suggested in March that Russia’s entire front line would collapse if his fighters fail to secure Bakhmut.
The Friday bombings on the city began just hours after Prigozhin announced plans to withdraw his army-for-hire from the front lines by May 10, blaming Russian leader Vladimir Putin for starving his men and forcing them to fight with insufficient munitions.
In a video posted to Telegram, Prigozhin launched a tirade against Putin, who he called an “animal,” and said military leaders who wouldn’t give his troops ammunition would “have their insides eaten in hell.”
Representatives for the Pentagon, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, and the Government of the Russian Federation did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.