Prigozhin Announces Start Of Wagner Troop Withdrawal From Bakhmut

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is set to hold a virtual meeting on May 25 of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG), which consists of dozens of countries that have supported Kyiv in its fight against Russia’s illegal invasion, amid calls by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for allies to speed delivery of promised F-16 fighter jets to beef up his country’s air defense.

The UDCG virtual meeting is slated to discuss ways to sustain Ukraine’s armored maneuver capabilities and bolster the country’s air defenses against Russia’s continued attacks, the Pentagon said.

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The meeting, which starts at 2 p.m. CET, comes as Russia continues to launch air strikes against Ukrainian cities and regions.

Moscow unleashed a fresh wave of Iranian-made attack drones on Kyiv and several Ukrainian regions overnight, but all drones were shot down, the Ukrainian air defense reported on May 25.

“A total of 36 drones were launched toward Ukraine from the north and south. Presumably, the enemy aimed to attack critical infrastructure and military facilities in the western regions of the country,” the air defense said.

Following the attacks, Zelenskiy accused Moscow of terrorizing Ukrainians and thanked the military for downing all the drones launched by Russia overnight.

“The enemy continued to terrorize Ukraine by launching 36 Shaheds. None reached its target,” Zelenskiy said on social media, adding, “I’m grateful to our air defense forces for the 100 percent result.”

Earlier, officials said air raid alerts had been declared in the Kyiv, Chernihiv, Zhytomyr, Kirovohrad, Mykolayiv, Kherson, Dnipropetrovsk, Odesa, Volyn, Ternopil, Vinnytsya, and Lviv regions.

Fighting continued for the city of Bakhmut, which has become the epicenter of the war in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, the Ukrainian military said, despite claims by Russia that it controlled the whole city.

Ukrainian defenders repelled 28 Russian assaults in Bakhmut, Ukraine’s military said in its daily report on the front situation on May 25.

Russian shelling also killed a civilian in Chasiv Yar, a locality close to Bakhmut, Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on May 25.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group that has spearheaded the attack on Bakhmut, on May 25 claimed his fighters were starting to leave the city he claims to have fully captured.

In a video published on Telegram, Prigozhin said his troops will hand Bakhmut over to the regular Russian armed forces by June 1.

Prigozhin said that “if the military faces hardships,” some Wagner fighters might stay in Bakhmut.

The Defense Ministry has yet to comment on Prigozhin’s latest statement.

In his nightly video address, Zelenskiy said the providing of U.S.-made F-16s to Kyiv is a clear sign that Russia is destined to lose the war in Ukraine.

WATCH: RFE/RL’s Maryan Kushnir watched Ukrainian artillery on the outskirts of Bakhmut firing BM-21 Grad missiles at Russian positions, while Current Time’s Oleksiy Prodayvoda observed another Ukrainian unit to the south of the city.

“The very first Ukrainian F-16 will be one of the strongest signals from the world that Russia will only lose because of its aggression. It will be weaker and further isolated,” Zelenskiy said.

“The main thing is speed in training and in supply, meaning the time between decisions in real protection for our skies,” he added.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) on May 25 was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying it had arrested two Ukrainians who it claimed were planning to attack Russian nuclear power plants.

“A sabotage group from the Ukrainian foreign intelligence service…tried to blow up some 30 power lines of nuclear power plants in Leningrad and Kalinin” in early May, the FSB was quoted as saying.

On May 24, the Russian Defense Ministry said three Ukrainian remote-controlled surface vessels had attempted to attack a Russian warship in the Black Sea.

The ministry said in a Telegram post that the Russian craft had been protecting the TurkStream and Blue Stream gas pipelines that transport gas from Russia to Turkey but that no damage was done to it and that all attacking vessels were destroyed.

Kyiv did not immediately comment on the claim, which could not independently be verified.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

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