Russia says Wagner private army, with help from Russian troops, seized Bakhmut
Russia’s defence ministry has said that forces of the Wagner private army, with the support of Russian troops, seized the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
The ministry statement on the Telegram channel came about eight hours after a similar claim by Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Ukrainian authorities at that time said fighting for Bakhmut was continuing.
The eight-month battle for the city in eastern Ukraine is the longest and probably most bloody of the conflict in Ukraine.
Using the city’s Soviet-era name, the Russian ministry said: “In the Artyomovsk tactical direction, the assault teams of the Wagner private military company with the support of artillery and aviation of the southern battlegroup has completed the liberation of the city of Artyomovsk.”
There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian officials about the latest claim.
In a video posted earlier on Telegram, Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin said the city came under complete Russian control at about midday on Saturday.
He spoke flanked by about a half dozen fighters, with ruined buildings in the background and explosions heard in the distance.
After the video appeared, Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern command, told The Associated Press that Mr Prigozhin’s claim “is not true. Our units are fighting in Bakhmut.”
In a statement on Facebook, the Ukrainian General Staff said that “heavy battles for the city of Bakhmut do not stop.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said that “this is not the first time Prigozhin has said ‘we seized everything and are dominating’.”
He suggested that the Wagner chief’s statement was aimed at drawing attention away from Mr Zelensky’s recent highly visible trips overseas, including to the Group of Seven summit in Japan on Saturday.
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