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Wagner's Prigozhin offered Kyiv Russian troop locations for Ukrainian retreat in Bakhmut, leaked intel says

Yevgeniy Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group mercenary army, offered Ukrainian intelligence information on Russian troop locations in exchange for Ukrainian forces pulling out of the fiercely contested city of Bakhmut, The Washington Post reported Sunday, citing U.S. intelligence document shared on Discord by an American military analyst

Prigozhin reportedly made the offer to sell out Russian forces in late January, a period of heavy losses for Wagner fighters in Bakhmut, to contacts he has secretly maintained within Ukraine's intelligence directorate, or HUR, including in-person meetings with HUR officials in an African country. Two Ukrainian officials told the Post that Prigozhin had offered HUR the Russian troop positions more than once, but that Kyiv rejected it because Ukrainian officials don't trust Prigozhin or his intentions. Moscow was likely aware of Prigozhin's secret communications with Ukraine's HUR, the Post reports.

Prigozhin had promised to capture all of Bakhmut by May 9, and as that date came and went with Ukraine still holding part of the ruined city, he has become increasingly publicly critical of Russia's military leadership and defense minister. The Prigozhin-Kremlin feud has only escalated as Ukrainian forces have recaptured several square miles of territory on the outskirts of Bakhmut over the past week, as CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reported over the weekend. 

"Our troops are gradually advancing in two directions in the suburbs of Bakhmut," Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Mailar said Saturday night, and they are "are destroying the enemy and have already taken many prisoners." She said in a Telegram post on Sunday that Ukrainian forces captured more than 10 positions outside Bakhmut, while the situation inside the city is "very hot." Russia holds about 90 percent of Bakhmut proper, but Ukraine says it is trying to encircle the city, not recapture it in a frontal assault. 

Prigozhin, Russian military bloggers, and Ukraine say Russian forces outside Bakhmut have been abandoning their positions as Ukraine attacks, though a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said Friday that Russian troops have "taken advantageous decisions" to "enhance defense lines." Britain's Defense Ministry said Sunday that over the past four days, elements of Russia's reconstituted 72nd Separate Motor Rifle Brigade "likely withdrew in bad order from their positions on the southern flank of the Bakhmut operation," highlighting "Russia's severe shortage of credible combat units." 

Russia's Defense Ministry said late Sunday that two senior commanders, Col. Vyacheslav Makarov and Col. Yevgeny Brovko, had been killed in action in an unspecified area of Donetsk, the region that includes Bakhmut. And four Russian military aircraft — an SU-34 bomber, an SU-35 fighter jet, and two Mi-8 helicopters — crashed in the the Russia's Bryansk region, near the border with Ukraine. Some Russian reports suggest Ukrainian air defenses amassed on the border shot down the aircraft.