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HomeWORLDUkraine war: Russia claims key city Bakhmut captured, Kyiv rejects claim

Ukraine war: Russia claims key city Bakhmut captured, Kyiv rejects claim

Ukraine war: Russia on Saturday claimed it had fully captured the key eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. Leader of the Wagner Group of mercenaries, Yevgeny Prigozhin said his troops had finally pushed the Ukrainians out of the last built-up area inside the city.

“Today, at 12 noon, Bakhmut was completely taken,” Prigozhin said in a video. Dressed in combat fatigues in front of a line of fighters holding Russian flags and Wagner banners, he said, “We completely took the whole city, from house to house.”

Putin congratulates troops

Reports said Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated troops on capturing Bakhmut. He said those who had distinguished themselves would be given awards.

The claims came after a week in which Ukrainian forces have made their most rapid gains for six months on Bakhmut’s northern and southern flanks.

However, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar refuted the claim. In a Telegram post less than an hour after the Russian mercenary’s claim, she admitted that the situation in Bakhmut was “critical” but added that Ukrainian troops were still “holding the defense” in a district on Bakhmut’s western-most edge.

“As of now, our defenders control certain industrial and infrastructure facilities in the area and the private sector,” Hanna said.

Reacting to Prigozhin’s comments, Ukrainian military spokesperson Serhiy Cherevatyi told Reuters, “This is not true. Our units are fighting in Bakhmut.”

Split between Wagner, military

The battle for Bakhmut has revealed a deepening split between Wagner, a mercenary force that has recruited thousands of convicts from Russian prisons, and the regular Russian military. For two weeks, Prigozhin has been issuing daily video and audio messages denouncing Russia’s military leadership, often in expletive-laden rants.

Moscow has long claimed that capturing Bakhmut would be a stepping stone towards advancing deeper into the Donbas region it claims to have annexed from Ukraine. It has made it the principal target of a massive offensive that failed to capture any significant ground elsewhere.

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