In the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the Russian paramilitary group Wagner has requested Moscow to let them hand over their positions in the flashpoint city of Bakhmut to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. The move comes after rivalries between Wagner and the Russian army surfaced, with Yevgeny Prigozhin, who leads Wagner, blaming Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov for the high number of killed and wounded Russian fighters in Ukraine.

Wagner has been spearheading the grinding, months-long Russian assault on Bakhmut, almost capturing the city in the longest and bloodiest battle of the Russian campaign in Ukraine. However, Prigozhin claimed that his fighters would be forced to pull out due to an “ammunition famine,” with the Russian defence ministry only delivering 32 percent of the required ammunition since October.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has said that the Akhmat commando force is ready to move into Bakhmut and take control of the city, clearing it of NATO and Ukrainian forces. Kadyrov claims that several units are already en route to the zone of the special military operation and that they are waiting for orders. He also assured his followers that the tactic being used would yield positive results.

However, there seems to be a big difference between Prigozhin’s words and reality on the ground. Since the announcement, thousands of shells have been fired from the Russian side towards Ukrainian-held parts of Bakhmut and Khromove, and over a hundred incendiary missiles/rockets have been used. Large parts of Western Bakhmut were on fire during the night.

Both Ukrainian and Russian sources claim that huge Russian reinforcements, mostly new Wagner forces, have arrived in Bakhmut, and nobody seems to be leaving. On the ground, Russian forces are attacking on all fronts, with hard battles in Khromove during the night. The frontline seems to have moved clearly to the southwest in the western area with small houses. The remaining Ukrainian defence line in the west, the crossroad where the last open road to Bakhmut enters and the Children’s hospital, is also under attack.

Hard battles also continue in the high rise Citadel, with about 25 percent of it now in the grey zone. The Ukrainian army allegedly demolished more buildings, and on the western side of Chajkovskogo Street, Russian forces try to advance to the West and Southwest.

The handover of positions in Bakhmut from Wagner to Kadyrov is a significant development in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. It remains to be seen how this will affect the situation on the ground, given the ongoing fighting and the high number of casualties.