Prigozhin Press Service via AP

Prigozhin Press Service via AP

After the longest and most arduous fight of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the commander of a Russian private army known as Wagner said on Saturday that his forces had successfully gained possession of the city of Bakhmut, but authorities from the Ukrainian defense establishment refuted his claim.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner, was quoted as saying in a video that was shared on Telegram that the city was completely under Russian control at around lunchtime on Saturday. As he talked, he was surrounded by around half a dozen other warriors. In the backdrop, there were destroyed houses, and explosions could be heard in the distance.

However, after the video was published, the deputy defense minister of the Ukrainian government, Hanna Maliar, stated that severe fighting was still ongoing.

“The situation is critical,” she said. Our defenders now have control over a number of the industrial and infrastructural sites located within this region.

The allegation made by Prigozhin “is not true,” according to Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s eastern command, who spoke with the Associated Press. Our forces are now engaged in combat in Bakhmut.

Bakhmut and the surrounding areas have been plagued with fighting for more than eight months.

Even if Russian forces have managed to seize control of Bakhmut, they will still be faced with the monumental challenge of capturing the remaining portion of the Donetsk region that is still under control of the Ukrainians. This includes numerous places that have been highly defended.

In the struggle for Bakhmut, it is not possible to say for certain which side has suffered a greater loss of life. Both Russia and Ukraine have suffered casualties that are likely in the thousands, but neither country has made public the exact death toll from the conflict.

During an interview with The Associated Press in March, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, emphasized the significance of protecting Bakhmut by stating that its loss might provide Russia the opportunity to garner international support for a deal that would oblige Kyiv to make concessions that are inadmissible to the Ukrainian government.

According to the findings of several analysts, the loss of Bakhmut would be devastating for Ukraine and would provide Russia with a number of strategic benefits; nonetheless, it would not be crucial for the outcome of the conflict.


The Russian forces still have the monumental challenge of capturing the rest of the Donetsk region, which is still controlled by the Ukrainians and includes various places that are well defended. The Donbas region is the industrial core of Ukraine and is comprised of the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, both of which are located in close proximity to one another. This region was unlawfully acquired by Russia in September of this year.

Bakhmut, which is situated around 55 kilometers (34 miles) to the north of the regional capital of Donetsk, which is occupied by the Russians, had a population of 80,000 people before to the conflict and was an important industrial town. It was bordered by salt and gypsum mines.

When Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union, the city was given its current name, Artyomovsk, in honor of a Bolshevik revolutionary. In addition, the city was famous for the sparkling wine that was produced in underground caves. Its large tree-lined avenues, verdant parks, and stately downtown with magnificent late 19th century homes made it a famous tourist destination. However, all of these features have been transformed to a smoking wasteland as a result of the fire.

In 2014, only a few weeks after Moscow’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, a separatist insurgency enveloped eastern Ukraine. The insurgents soon took control of the city, only to lose it a few months later.

Following a failed effort to capture Kyiv early on in the invasion that began in February 2022, Russia shifted its attention to the Donbas. In August, Moscow’s soldiers attempted to take Bakhmut, but they were unsuccessful and were forced to retreat.

The warfare in that region calmed down throughout the fall because Russia was forced to deal with Ukrainian counteroffensives in the east and the south, but it picked up just where it left off toward the end of the previous year. Russia advanced into Bakhmut’s suburbs and took control of the salt-mining town of Soledar in January. Soledar is located immediately to the north of Bakhmut.

Intense Russian fire was directed at the city as well as the adjacent villages as Moscow attempted to kill off the resistance in what the Ukrainians referred to as “fortress Bakhmut.”

Mercenaries hired by Wagner led the charge for Russia in their onslaught. In the midst of the difficulties with the senior Russian military officers, whom Prigozhin had sharply attacked, Prigozhin attempted to grow his influence by utilizing the war for the city.

“In Bakhmut, we engaged in combat with more than only the military forces of Ukraine. We fought the Russian bureaucracy, which was throwing sand in the wheels, and we won,” Prigozhin stated in the video that was released on Saturday.

In the midst of fierce house-to-house combat, the unrelenting artillery fire from the Russian side left very few structures undamaged. According to the statements made by Ukrainian officials, Wagner fighters “marched on the bodies of their own soldiers.” Both sides have been shooting thousands of rounds every single day, which is a rate that has not been witnessed in any other armed war in the past few decades.

According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, capturing the city would give Russia the opportunity to extend its attack farther into the Donetsk area. The Donetsk region is one of the four Ukrainian provinces that Russia unlawfully invaded in September.