War in Ukraine: Russia declares Bakhmut completely captured

War in Ukraine: Russia declares Bakhmut completely captured

The Battle of Bakhmut is considered the longest and bloodiest of the war in Ukraine. Now the Russian side claims to have conquered the largely destroyed city. Selenskyj does not express himself clearly.

Russia has declared the months-long battle for Bakhmut to be over and has announced that it has completely captured the city in eastern Ukraine. The private army Wagner had completely conquered the city with the help of artillery and air support from the Russian armed forces, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said on the night.

The head of the Wagner mercenaries, Yevgeny Prigoshin, had previously announced that the city, which had been extremely hard fought for months and which had meanwhile been almost completely destroyed, would be taken. According to the Ukrainian military, parts of the city are still under its control.

Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin congratulated the Wagner troops and the Russian army. The Russian armed forces would have guaranteed Wagner the necessary protection on the flanks, Putin said, according to his press service. “All outstanding fighters are honored with state awards.”

Bachmut largely in ruins

The Battle of Bakhmut is considered the longest and most costly of the Russian war of aggression, which began 15 months ago with the invasion of the neighboring country. At that time the city still had 70,000 inhabitants, but now it is largely in ruins. Nevertheless, the Ukraine did not give up Bakhmut to prevent a breakthrough of the Russian troops further inland. President Volodymyr Zelenskyj had ordered not to give up the symbolic city.

The spokesman for the Ukrainian Army Group East, Serhiy Cherevatyy, denied on the radio in Kiev that Bakhmut had been captured. On the contrary, Prigozhin’s troops were at the end of their rope and wanted to give up: they feared being surrounded by the Ukrainian defenders, said Cherevaty.

The US Institute for War Studies (ISW) based in Washington said it was at best a symbolic success for Prigozhin, if his account was correct. Strategically, Bakhmut is of no use, and the Ukrainian troops are also putting pressure on the northern and southern flanks of the city.

Wagner boss Prigozhin thanks Putin

Bakhmut is the main part of the line of defense between the cities of Siversk and Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, established after the Russian conquest of Sieverodonetsk and Lysychansk. Should the city actually fall to the occupiers, the route to the major cities of Slovjansk and Kramatorsk would open up for the Russian troops. This would bring a full conquest of the Donetsk region planned by Russia closer.

Yesterday, Prigozhin, in uniform and holding the Russian flag, announced the conquest of Bakhmut. At the same time, he once again criticized the Russian military leadership: “We not only fought with the armed forces of Ukraine, but also with the Russian bureaucracy, which threw a spanner in the works,” Prigozhin said in a video. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff Valeri Gerasimov made the war “for their personal pleasure.” Their whims and the military bureaucracy meant “five times as many soldiers died as should have died.”

On the other hand, he thanked President Putin for giving the Wagner fighters the opportunity to fight for Russia. It was a “great honor,” stressed Prigozhin, who is considered a close confidant of Putin. The Wagner troupe helped the “disheveled Russian army to find itself again”. He now wants to leave Bachmut to the regular troops. According to Prigozhin, the Wagner troops had been fighting for control of Bakhmut since October 8 – a recovery phase was now pending. But his men are ready to continue fighting for Russia.

demand on Moscow

With a view to the visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the G7 summit of the leading democratic economies in Japan, Prigozhin said that Kiev’s troops fought “bravely and well”. Selenskyj should send greetings to US President Joe Biden from the Wagner army, the best in the world. In the direction of Moscow, he addressed the demand that those who had protracted the battle for Bakhmut by withholding ammunition, material and fighters should be held accountable.

Prigozhin had also recruited convicted criminals in Russian prisons to reinforce the battle. He said it would have taken 23 times more personnel and 27 times more ammunition to capture the city faster. Prigozhin also recalled the many who died without citing numbers. Because of the high losses on both sides, the mercenary chief had described the battle for Bakhmut as a “meat grinder”.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister: “The situation is critical”

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maljar contradicted Prigozhin’s words on Saturday afternoon, saying that “heavy fighting” in Bakhmut continued. At the same time, she admitted: “The situation is critical.” However, the Ukrainian armed forces defended their positions and still controlled individual industrial and infrastructure objects. She did not initially react to the Russian government’s declaration of victory.

Maljar had previously said the Russian military had moved thousands of soldiers to Bakhmut for reinforcements and continued to attack “at heavy casualties that disproportionately exceed our losses.” The Ministry of Defense in Moscow also spoke of heavy enemy losses. The information provided by both sides about the fighting could not be independently verified.

Zelenskyj expresses himself

According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the city of Bakhmut, which has been under fighting for months, is not fully under Russian control. After the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, Zelenskyy said: “Bakhmut was not occupied by Russia today.”

Selenskyj thus clarified misleading, ambiguous statements he made about the military situation after a meeting with US President Joe Biden.

A reporter had asked him whether Bakhmut was still in Ukrainian hands. The journalist added that the Russians said they had captured Bakhmut. The Ukrainian President replied by saying: “I think not.”

Kiev: Ukraine continues to hold parts of south-west Bakhmut

According to the Ukrainian military, parts of the city of Bakhmut remain under its control. “Our soldiers are holding fortifications and some premises in the south-west of the city,” Army Group East spokesman Serhiy Cherevatyy said on Ukrainian television on Sunday. However, he admitted that the situation was critical and that there was heavy fighting. The Russian military had already announced the capture of the city on Saturday. The information provided by the warring parties cannot be verified independently.

Cherevatyj also commented on the ambiguous statements made by President Volodymyr Zelenskyj, which were initially taken as confirmation of the Russian conquest of Bakhmut before Kiev denied them. “The president said it right – the city has practically been razed to the ground,” said Cherevaty. Even if captured, the city would be of no military or political use to the Russians, “but they’re acting as if they’ve taken Dnipro.” The city of Dnipro is the most important industrial and armaments center in the south-east of Ukraine.

Later, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maljar announced that Ukrainian troops had made further advances on the flanks. The military has taken over several mountain ranges, making it difficult for the Russians to stay in Bakhmut. The Ukrainian forces have already formed a semicircle around the city, she wrote on Telegram on Sunday.

“We are advancing further on the flanks in the suburbs of Bakhmut and are actually getting closer to the tactical encirclement of the city,” said Army Forces Chief Olexander Syrskyj. Even if the Ukrainians only held an “insignificant part” in the city, it is important to continue defending it so that they can advance quickly if the situation changes, he said.

Source: Stern

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