Russia’s Wagner Chief Claims Victory in Bakhmut, Yet Ukraine Denies Defeat

EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / A Ukrainian serviceman walks near a residential building d

Russia’s mercenary Wagner chief claimed on Saturday that his forces had fully captured the key Donbas city of Bakhmut, however, Ukrainian defence officials have refused to concede defeat and said that fighting continues.

While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is on the other side of the world attempting to sure up Western support for his war effort at the G7 meeting in Hiroshima, Japan, a key Ukrainian holdout may be falling.

According to the bellicose boss of Russia’s private army Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the city of Bakmut fell to his forces on Saturday after one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the war in Ukraine, with fighting in the area starting over 200 days ago.

“Today at noon, Bakhmut was fully captured,” Prigozhin said in a video published on his Telegram channel, as translated by Russian state-media RT.

“We’ve taken the whole city – every building – so that nobody could say that we didn’t capture some small part of it,” he declared.

Prigozhin said that his group of Wagner mercenary fighters would remain in the city until Thursday before handing over control of Bakhmut to the Russian Ministry of Defence. He added that his soldiers would then take a period of rest and recuperation after months of heavy fighting in what he dubbed the “Bakhmut meat-grinder”.

The Wagner boss went on to personally address Ukrainian President Zelensky, saying “without sarcasm” that the Ukrainian soldiers had “fought bravely, fought well” to defend the city.

“Today, when you see Biden, kiss him on the top of his head and tell him that I said ‘hi,’” he Prigozhin joked in reference to the G7 meeting in Japan that Zelensky is currently attending alongside U.S. President Joe Biden.

However, despite the definitive claims of victory from the Wagner boss, Ukrainian officials have so far denied that their forces were fully defeated in Bakhmut.

“Heavy battles are ongoing in Bakhmut. The situation is critical. At the same time, our troops hold the defense in the Litak district,” Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Defence Hanna Maliar said according to state media Ukrinform.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern command, also denied Prigozhin’s claims, saying that it “is not true. Our units are fighting in Bakhmut.”

Ahead of the declaration from the Wagner chief, there were indications from British intelligence that Russia was planning on doubling down on its push to capture the city, after reportedly being forced into an embarrassing retreat earlier this month during which Prigozhin had complained of lack of ammunition and even suggested abandoning the battle.

According to the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD), it is believed that over the past four days Russia redeployed several betalians to reinforce their efforts in Bakhmut.

“With Russia likely maintaining relatively few uncommitted combat units in Ukraine, the redeployment represents a notable commitment by the Russian command. Russia’s leadership likely continue to see capturing Bakhmut as the key immediate war aim which would allow them to claim some degree of success in the conflict,” the MoD said.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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