Head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny PrigozhinIt declared full control of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut on Saturday, which was the epicenter of the war’s longest and bloodiest battle.
Reuters could not independently confirm Prigozhin’s claims in a video clip in which he appeared in combat fatigues in front of a line of fighters carrying Russian flags and Wagner banners.
“Today, at 12 noon, Bakhmut has been completely taken,” Prigogine said. “We completely controlled the entire city, house to house.” He also confirmed that his forces would withdraw from Bakhmut starting May 25 to rest and retrain, and hand over control to the regular Russian army. Distant explosions can be heard in the background as Prigozhin speaks throughout the video.
Ukraine’s military denied on Saturday that Wagner’s forces had taken full control of the devastated eastern city of Bakhmut and said its forces were continuing to fight there. “This is not true. Our units are fighting in Bakhmut,” military spokesman Serhiy Shrivati told Reuters.
Prigozhin mocked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Joe Biden, who were attending the G7 summit in Japan on Saturday as the war in Ukraine was a top priority for world leaders. Addressing Zelensky, Prigozhin said, “Today when you see Biden, kiss him on the head, and say hello for me.”
Prigozhin repeated complaints he had repeatedly made in the past that his forces had suffered far more casualties than necessary due to inadequate support and ammunition supplies from the army. And earlier this month, he threatened to withdraw his forces after publishing an angry tirade against the Minister of Defense. Sergey Shoiguwhile standing in a field of bloody corpses.
Because of Russian red tape and the “whims” of Shoigu and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov, he said in a videotape on Saturday, “five times more men died than they should have.”
Their claim of victory followed heavy fighting in the city last week in which Ukraine said it had pushed back some Russian forces.
British Defense Intelligence said on Saturday that it was “highly likely” that Russia had deployed several battalions to reinforce the Pakhmut sector after Ukrainian tactical gains on the city’s flanks. He said this represented “an impressive commitment on the part of the Russian leadership”.
“Russia’s leaders will likely continue to view the capture of Bakhmut as the main immediate objective of the war, which will allow them to claim a certain degree of success in the conflict,” he wrote on Twitter.
Prigozhin himself admitted that Bakhmut, a pre-war city with a population of 70,000, did not have strategic importance, but acquired great importance. symbolic significance Both sides due to the intensity of the fighting and the size of the losses.
The latest assessment of the Russian Ministry of Defense, published today, Saturday, Not confirmed yet The alleged capture of Bakhmut, limited to reporting “assault detachments fighting in the western part, in the Bogdanovka and Yagodnoye regions,” explained the military spokesman, General Igor Konashenkov, in statements compiled by the Russian news agency TASS.
On Saturday, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said that the situation in Bakhmut is critical, as Ukrainian forces are maintaining their defense in the southwestern part of the city. Fierce fighting in Bakhmut. The situation is criticalHe said on the Telegram messaging app. “So far, our defenders control some of the industrial facilities and infrastructure in the region and the private sector.”