Ukrainian officials are pushing back on claims from Russian officials that the Wagner Group mercenary force has captured part of Bakhmut, which remains the focal point of Russia’s latest offensive in its war against Ukraine.
Wagner Group founder Evgeny Prigozhin announced the latest developments on his Telegram social media channel.
“Wagner (Private Military Co.) units have occupied the entire eastern part of Bakhmut. Everything east of the Bakhmutka River is completely under the control of the Wagner PMC,” Mr. Prigozhin said Wednesday.
Bakhmut, known to Russians as Artyomovsk, is located in the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic and serves as a major transportation hub for the movement of military troops in the region. Bakhmut has been the scene of fierce fighting for several weeks.
Ukrainian military officials acknowledge that the Russian assaults on Bakhmut are continuing but said their defenders have successfully repelled all attacks.
“The enemy continues to violate the rules of international humanitarian law, striking and shelling with artillery the civilian facilities and homes,” Ukraine’s general staff said Wednesday in its latest report from the battlefield.
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General dissatisfaction among mobilized Russian troops has been rising throughout the front. The main reason, Ukrainian officials said, was the increasing use of rear-area support soldiers as front-line assault troops, although they have little to no combat experience.
“This causes a drastic increase in the number of casualties, and the ‘base area soldiers’ do not agree to go to their deaths,” Ukraine’s general staff said.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the fighting around Bakhmut has been fierce, with Russia pouring more troops into the battle.
“What Russia lacks in quality, they try to make up in quantity,” Mr. Stoltenberg said Wednesday before a meeting with the European Union Foreign Affairs Council. “They have suffered big losses, but at the same time, we cannot rule out that Bakhmut may eventually fall in the coming days.”
The fall of Bakhmut to Russia would not reflect a turning point in the war, Mr. Stoltenberg said.
“It just highlights that we should not underestimate Russia,” he said.