Head Of Russia's Wagner Mercenary Group Vows To Transfer Control Of Ukrainian City Bakhmut To Russian Army By June
In a significant development, head of Russia's Wagner Mercenary group vows to transfer control of Ukrainian city Bakhmut to Russian army by June 1.
Prigozhin's assertion follows his earlier claim of capturing Bakhmut on Saturday, although Kyiv disputes this, asserting that it still maintains control over certain parts of the city.
Russia Wagner group vows to transfer captured Ukraine city of Bakhmut by June - BBC News
While Ukraine contends that its troops are making advancements on the outskirts of Bakhmut, Prigozhin has confirmed that his forces will commence the handover process to the Russian army starting Thursday.
COPYRIGHT_WI: Published on https://washingtonindependent.com/head-of-russias-wagner-mercenary-group-vows-to-transfer-control-of-ukrainian-city-bakhmut-to-russian-army-by-june/ by Mariella Blankenship on 2023-05-23T09:09:03.103Z
This announcement was made via an audio recording on Telegram, where he stated that Wagner would be vacating Artemovsk, the previous name of Bakhmut, between May 25 and June 1.
Ahead of the transfer, Wagner has reportedly established "defence lines" on the western side of the city. Nevertheless, Ukraine's Deputy Defence Minister, Hanna Maliar, reiterated that Ukrainian forces continue to possess a small foothold inside the city and are advancing on the outskirts, despite a reduction in the intensity of their movements.
Maliar later posted on Telegram, affirming that Ukrainian troops maintain control over "certain private facilities and the private sector in the 'Litak' area" of Bakhmut. Experts suggest that while Bakhmut holds limited strategic value for Moscow, its capture would represent a symbolic victory for Russia after the protracted battle in Ukraine.
Wagner mercenaries have relentlessly focused their efforts on Bakhmut for several months, employing costly tactics that involve sending waves of men, which appears to have gradually worn down Kyiv's resistance.
The conflicting claims regarding the status of Bakhmut have persisted between the two sides in recent days. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking at the G7 summit in Japan on Sunday, asserted that Bakhmut "is not occupied" by Russia.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Wagner after their announcement of capturing the city. Prigozhin, accompanied by some of his fighters, made this claim in a video shared on social media on Saturday.
The BBC Verify team has been diligently examining recent videos posted online by both sides pertaining to Bakhmut. Among the footage, one video posted on Sunday displays the raising of a Wagner mercenary flag on recently claimed Russian territory to the west of the city.
In another video, Mr. Prigozhin can be seen speaking from a location identified as close to the city's railway station. Two additional videos exhibit Ukrainian forces actively engaged in the city center and the western areas, which they have been striving to regain.
A map, based on data by ISW, illustrates the control areas over the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine, indicating nearly complete Russian control, with small pockets in the western part of the city still under Ukrainian forces' authority.
The map also incorporates recently released geolocated videos from both Russian and Ukrainian forces, as determined by BBC Verify. However, the claimed timing of the video recordings has not been definitively established, indicating that the videos could be older than purported.
Prigozhin has staked his reputation, along with that of his private army, on seizing the city.
If the ministry of defence does not have enough personnel, we have thousands of generals.- Mr. Prigozhin, The head of Russia's Wagner mercenary group
He has consistently targeted top Russian military officials, publicly criticizing them for not providing support to his troops. Last month, he even threatened to withdraw his troops from the city if they were not supplied with much-needed ammunition.
If Bakhmut were to be captured, Russia would move slightly closer to its goal of controlling the entire Donetsk region, one of the four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine that Russia annexed last September following referendums widely condemned outside Russia as a sham.
However, in previous instances when Russia fiercely fought to claim cities like Severodonetsk and Lysychansk last summer, Ukraine swiftly regained control of significant territories elsewhere.
Earlier this month, the United States stated its belief that over 20,000 Russian soldiers had been killed and another 80,000 wounded in the battle for Bakhmut. However, the BBC has been unable to independently verify these figures.
Before the invasion, Bakhmut was home to approximately 70,000 residents, but the devastated city now harbors only a few thousand individuals, marking a significant decline from its previous stature as a renowned hub for salt and gypsum mines, as well as a prominent winery.
The battle for control over the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut remains fiercely contested, with conflicting claims from both sides involved in the conflict.
The capture of Bakhmut holds symbolic and strategic significance, representing a potential victory for Russia and a step closer to their goal of controlling the Donetsk region.
The devastation caused by the war has taken a toll on the city, leaving only a fraction of its former population. As the situation unfolds, international attention remains focused on the conflict, hoping for a peaceful resolution.