CNN  — 

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary group, has apparently backtracked on a threat to withdraw his forces from the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, after Russia’s Ministry of Defense promised to provide more ammunition to his troops.

In an explosive, expletive-laden rant this week, Prigozhin appeared in front of dozens of his dead soldiers and blamed Russia’s military leadership for “tens of thousands” of Wagner casualties. He declared that his men would leave Bakhmut by May 10 because of inadequate supplies, resulting in heavy losses.

But a new audio message posted Sunday on Telegram suggests he has changed his mind after concessions from the Russian government.

“The bottom line is the following: they promise to give us ammunition and weapons, as much as we need to continue further actions. They swear to us that everything that is necessary will be on the flank so the enemy сan’t cut us off. We are told that we can act in Bakhmut as we see fit,” Prigozhin said.

The Russian Ministry of Defense did not immediately comment on Prigozhin’s latest claim.

Yulia Morozova/Reuters
Prigozhin now plans to keep his troops in Bakhmut after securing greater government support.

Bakhmut has been the site of a months-long assault by Russian forces that has driven thousands from their homes and left the area devastated. But, despite the vast amounts of manpower and resources Russia has poured into capturing Bakhmut, they have not been able to take total control of the city.

“We’ve taken 95% of Bakhmut. For this last 5%, the ‘Red Army’ [the Russian Armed Forces] are not playing any role,” Prigozhin said in a message posted on his official Telegram channel Saturday.

Prigozhin’s blunt and brutal tactics in Bakhmut have long been likened to a “meat grinder.” But, in his repeated threats to withdraw from Bakhmut, Prigozhin claimed this approach was no longer viable.

“There will be no more meat grinder because there’s nothing left to grind the meat with,” Prigozhin said.

The Wagner boss had said Wagner positions in and around Bakhmut would be transferred to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s forces from May 10.

Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images
Fighting has raged in Bakhmut for months, but the city has not yet fallen to Russian troops.

But Prigozhin’s latest message posted Sunday revealed that Russia’s Ministry of Defense had pledged significant support to the Wagner group, including allowing general Sergey Surovikin, the former overall commander of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to help organize Wagner’s operations.

“They give us Surovikin as a person who will make all decisions in the framework of the military operations of PMC Wagner and interact with the Ministry of Defense,” Prigozhin said.

Prigozhin had also previously floated the possibility that Wagner might be disbanded without greater support from the Russian government, but appeared to also row back from these suggestions in the new audio message.

“I specifically asked a question to all junior commanders, who immediately brought it to the attention of the fighters: if someone wants, they can go to other military formations. Everyone unequivocally answered ‘No.’”