The commander of Russia's Wagner mercenary army warned that Russia's position near the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut was in jeopardy if his forces did not get the ammunition, the latest indication of tension between the Kremlin and the private militia chief.
According to Ukrainian military sources and analysts, leaders of Russia's 155th Brigade operating near Vuhledar, south of Bakhmut, resisted orders to advance after suffering heavy losses during attempts to conquer the town.
Sunday, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that Russian soldiers had attacked a Ukrainian Azov Regiment command station in the southeastern Zaporizhia region. The ministry provided no details regarding the attack.
Reuters was unable to confirm the battlefield reports independently.
If his soldiers do not receive the promised ammunition from Moscow in February, the Russian front lines at Bakhmut could collapse, according to Wagner commander Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Referring to the lack of munitions, Prigozhin remarked on Sunday via his press service's Telegram channel, "For now, we are trying to figure out the reason: is it just ordinary bureaucracy or a betrayal,"
The mercenary commander routinely criticizes the Russian defence minister and top generals. Last month, he accused Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and others of "treason" for denying his troops ammunition.
In a nearly four-minute video posted on the Wagner Orchestra Telegram channel on Saturday, Prigozhin stated that his troops feared the government would use them as potential scapegoats if Russia lost the war.
"If Wagner retreats from Bakhmut now, the whole front will collapse," stated Prigozhin. The circumstance will not be favourable for all military formations defending Russian objectives.
'Defense is holding.'
A Russian victory in Bakhmut, with a pre-war population of approximately 70,000, would award it the first major prize in an expensive winter operation after it called up hundreds of thousands of reservists last year. Moscow claims it would serve as a stepping stone to achieving one of its most important goals, the conquest of the industrial Donbas region.
The commander of Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut, Volodymyr Nazarenko, stated that there was no order to retreat and "the defence is holding" despite dire conditions.
"The situation in Bakhmut and around it is much hell-like, as it is on the entire eastern front," Nazarenko stated in a Telegram video.
The Ukrainian military reported late Sunday that Russian soldiers were attempting to push on Bakhmut, shelling the city and Ivanivske, Chasiv Yar, Kurdyumivka, and Orikhovo-Vasilivka.
Oleh Zhdanov, a Ukrainian military analyst, said in a video analysis, "The situation in Bakhmut can be described as critical,"
According to the Ukrainian military, Russian soldiers advanced towards Bilohorivka, just within the Luhansk area, and fired on many communities toward Kupiansk and Lyman.
Russian soldiers reportedly prepared for an offensive in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson areas, firing dozens of towns and villages, including the metropolis of Kherson, resulting in civilian casualties.
A mother and two children were killed by Russian mortar munitions in a village in the province of Kherson, according to the chairman of the Ukrainian presidency.
'Refusing to proceed.'
In Vuhledar, southwest of the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk, Ukraine said that top officers of Russia's 155th Brigade, which, according to Kyiv, has suffered severe losses recently, were refusing to carry out attack orders.
"According to available information, the leaders of the brigade and senior officers are refusing to proceed with a new senseless attack as demanded by their unskilled commanders - to storm well-defended Ukrainian positions with little protection or preparation," the Ukrainian military said in a statement.
According to military analyst Zhdanov, two Russian "Cossack" troops, Steppe and Tiger, expressed discontent with their leaders. They refused to participate in any new onslaught against the hilltop city.
The reports were not readily verifiable by Reuters.
This past weekend, Russian Defense Minister Shoigu visited his service members in Ukraine, where he presented awards and met with commanders.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia ordered a "special military operation" in Ukraine over a year ago.
Since then, tens of thousands of people have been dead, millions have fled, and towns have been reduced to ruin, but Ukrainian forces, aided by Western weapons, have contained Russian advances in the east and south.
Two U.S. officials stated on Saturday that two Ukrainian pilots are in Arizona to fly flight simulators and be examined by the U.S. military.
Ukraine has requested F-16 planes from its Western partners, but the United States has not said if it will send fighter aircraft or advanced remotely controlled drones to Ukraine.