Yevgeny Prigojine, head of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, said on Saturday that his men had fully captured the town of Bakhmout, the center of fighting in eastern Ukraine that has raged since last summer.
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“On May 20, 2023, today, afternoon, Bagmouth was completely taken,” said Mr. Prigozhin made the announcement in a video broadcast by his press service on Telegram, where he stands with armed men in front of ruined buildings.
“The operation to capture Bagmouth lasted 224 days (…) Wagner was the only one here,” said Mr. Prigozhin said.
The battle for the ruined city of Bakhmout, whose strategic importance is disputed, was the longest and deadliest of the conflict. Both sides have suffered heavy casualties, while most of the fighting has been concentrated there for months.
Ukraine said this week it had retaken more than twenty square kilometers north and south of the city from Russian forces, while acknowledging that Wagner’s fighters had advanced into the city, where only a small pocket of Ukrainian resistance remains in the west.
Areas where the Ukrainians say they have advanced near Bagmouth are held by regular troops of the Russian army, and Yevgeny Prigozhin accuses them of deserting their positions or even the general staff not supplying his men with enough ammunition.
“We didn’t just fight the Ukrainian army in Bagmouth, but we also fought the Russian bureaucracy that put sticks on the roads for us,” Mr. Prigozhin started on Saturday.
He again criticized Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Commander-in-Chief Valery Kurasimov.
If confirmed, the capture of Bagmouth would allow Moscow to record victory after several humiliating setbacks.
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