Ukraine denies alleged seizure of Bakhmut by Russian private army
Kyiv, Ukraine – Chief of private army Russian The Wagner Group assured on Saturday that its forces had taken control of the city. Ukrainian Bakhmut after one of the longest and fiercest battles of the Russo-Ukrainian War. Ukrainian defense officials denied this.
In a video posted on Instagram, the head of Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, maintained that the city came under full Russian control around noon. Prigozhin spoke among half a dozen soldiers, against a backdrop of ruined buildings and the sound of explosions in the distance.
However, after the video surfaced, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Hanna Malier, said fighting was continuing.
“The situation is serious,” he acknowledged. “At the moment, our guards control some industrial and infrastructure facilities in the area.”
Serhiy Cherevaty, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Eastern Command, told The Associated Press that Prigozhin’s claim “is not true. Our units are fighting in Bakhmut.”
Fighting in and around Bakhmut began eight months earlier.
If Russian forces take control of Bakhmut, they will have the daunting task of seizing the rest of the Donetsk region that remains under Ukraine’s control, including several highly fortified areas.
It is unclear which side paid the highest price in the Battle of Bakhmut. Both Russia and Ukraine are believed to have killed in the thousands, but neither has released figures.
In an interview with the Associated Press in March, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, stressed the importance of protecting Bakhmut. His downfall, he said, would allow Russia to win international support for a deal that would force Kiev to make unacceptable concessions.
Analysts argue that the fall of Bakhmut would be a blow to Ukraine and give Russia some strategic advantage, but would not be decisive for the outcome of the war.
The neighboring provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk make up the country’s industrial hub of the Donbass region, where a separatist insurgency began in 2014. Russia illegally captured him last September.
Bakhmut, 55 kilometers north of the Russian-held regional capital of Donetsk, had a pre-war population of 80,000 and was a major industrial center surrounded by salt and gypsum mines.