Key developments on May 7:
- Wagner chief claims army promised enough ammunition to keep fighting in Bakhmut after threats
- Commander: Russia intensifying attacks in Bakhmut with heavy weaponry
- Ukrainian military: Russia moving civilians out of occupied Enerhodar
Russia's Wagner Group claimed on May 7 that Moscow had promised enough ammunition and weapons for its mercenaries to continue their deadly assault on Bakhmut a few days after it published an expletive-laden video threatening to withdraw from the city.
"They promise to give us as much ammunition and weapons as needed to continue further actions, they swear that everything needed will be put up on our flank, which is necessary for the enemy to not be able to cut us off," Wagner Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said.
"We are told that we can act in Bakhmut in such a way that as we see fit," Prigozhin added, whose mercenaries are known for committing war crimes.
Prigozhin's claim comes two days after threatening the Russian Defense Ministry that his mercenaries will leave Bakhmut on May 10 due to a lack of ammunition.
He also recorded an insult-laden address to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, blaming them for a "70 percent shortage of ammunition" on the battlefield in Ukraine and for the deaths of Russian soldiers.
The Russian military leadership has struggled to respond to Prigozhin's public insults and appealed to Putin to intervene, according to leaked U.S. intelligence documents seen by the Washington Post.
Prigozhin's rants suggest that the pleas have fallen on Putin's "deaf ears," according to the May 5 Washington Post report.
The tensions between Wagner and the Russian Defense Ministry have intensified since January. When Russia captured Soledar, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed victory over the salt-mining town northeast of Bakhmut initially without mentioning Wagner.
In March, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a D.C.-based think-tank analyzing the war in Ukraine, said that the Wagner–Russian Defense Ministry rivalry has likely reached a "boiling point" over Bakhmut.
Fight for Bakhmut
Meanwhile, Ukraine admits it's getting harder to defend Bakhmut, a city once home to 70,000 that has endured heavy fighting since last summer.
On May 7, Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi said that Russia had intensified its attacks on Ukrainian positions using heavy weaponry and regrouping troops to keep the offensive running.
"This indicates that the enemy is not going to change his plans and is doing everything possible to take Bakhmut under control and continue offensive operations," Syrskyi, who commands Ukraine's Land Forces, said.
Syrskyi said that Russian forces appeared to be trying to capture Bakhmut by May 9, on which both Russia and Ukraine celebrated Victory Day over Nazi Germany.
"Our task is to prevent this," Syrskyi said in his Telegram post.
Russian forces have begun deporting civilians from the city of Enerhodar in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces said on May 7.
Enerhodar, with a pre-war population of about 50,000, is home to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. It is among the 18 occupied settlements near the southern front line from which Russian occupation officials on May 5 ordered civilians to evacuate.
Enerhodar Mayor Dmytro Orlov, who is exiled from his hometown but receives information from the military and sources inside the city, said the first evacuation took place on the morning of May 6.
Orlov said that the first deportation was not a large-scale one. He added that it was mostly people who wanted to evacuate, getting on a bus or leaving in their own vehicles.
He added that the gas stations ran out of fuel on May 6 but did not say when he expected them to be refilled. According to the official, the internet partially works in Enerhodar, and the prices of products and medicine have risen.
The health concern is particularly worrying, Orlov said. He explained that the Russians began taking medical equipment out of hospitals and loading it onto cars, and some patients were given no option but to leave because "a number of departments in the hospital" stopped providing medical care.
The situation around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is becoming increasingly worrisome as shelling around the plant continues and Russia forcibly evacuates residents from the area, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.
Most of all, remaining civilians with Russian passports are subject to evacuation even if it is against their will, according to the General Staff and Orlov.
Throughout the war in Ukraine, Russia has used its passports as a "Russification tool" in occupied territories and is "almost certainly" forcing the local population to take Russian passports, the U.K. Defense Ministry said in April.
Russia has distributed around a million Russian passports on Ukrainian territory since 2019.