Russia’s Wagner chief claims total capture of Bakhmut

This video grab taken from a handout footage posted on 5 May 2023 on the Telegram account of the press-service of Concord — a company linked to the chief of Russian mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin — shows Yevgeny Prigozhin addressing the Russian army’s top brass standing in front of Wagner fighters at an undisclosed location. (Photo by Handout / TELEGRAM / @concordgroup_official / AFP)

The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, on Saturday, claimed the complete capture of east Ukraine’s Bakhmut, the scene of the longest and bloodiest battle in Moscow’s offensive.

Ukraine admitted the situation in the city was “critical”, but maintained it still has some ground control there.

Wagner has spearheaded the fight for Bakhmut and is believed to have suffered huge losses in the months-long storming of the city.

“Today on May 20, around mid-day, Bakhmut was taken in its entirety,” Prigozhin said in a video posted on Telegram, with fighters behind him holding the Russian flag surrounded by ruins.

Wagner fighters would examine the captured city before handing it over to the official Russian army by 25 May, he said.

“By May 25 we will completely examine (Bakhmut), create the necessary lines of defense and hand it to the military,” Prigozhin said. “We ourselves will go into field camps.”

Wagner’s announcement came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky took part in the G7 summit in Japan.

“The operation to capture Bakhmut — the Bakhmut meat grinder — lasted 224 days,” Prigozhin said, wearing a camouflage uniform.

The battle has flattened the salt-mining center that once had a population of around 70,000 people.

Prigozhin, embroiled in an increasingly public fight with the official Russian army, said Moscow’s losses would have been far smaller if it was not for incompetent generals

He has long complained about Wagner not being handed the appropriate amount of ammunition.

“There was only Wagner here (in Bakhmut),” he said in the video.

“We fought not only the Ukrainian army here, we fought Russian bureaucracy.”

He did not reveal how many Wagner fighters have died in Bakhmut, but said losses were “five times higher” due to Russia’s military leadership.

He blamed Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov for turning the offensive into “their own amusement”.

“One day in history they will pay for their actions,” Prigozhin said.

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