MOSCOW (Reuters) – Fighters of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group have captured two more areas of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Saturday.
“On the Donetsk direction, the fiercest fighting has been continuing in the city of Artyomovsk,” the ministry said in a daily statement, referring to the settlement by its Soviet-era name.
“Wagner assault units successfully advanced, capturing two areas on the northern and southern outskirts of the city,” it said.
The statement said Russian army paratroop units were supporting the claimed advance by holding back Ukrainian forces on the flanks.
Reuters could not independently confirm the report.
Political Cartoons on World Leaders
Wagner has spearheaded Russia’s attempt to take Bakhmut since last summer in what has been the longest and deadliest battle of the war for both sides. Its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has frequently complained of poor support for his forces from the regular military.
Britain said in an intelligence update on Friday that Ukrainian troops had been forced to cede some territory in Bakhmut as Russia mounted a renewed assault there, with intense artillery fire over the previous two days.
Bakhmut, which had a pre-war population of around 70,000 people, has been Russia’s main target in a winter offensive that has so far yielded scant gains despite infantry ground combat of an intensity unseen in Europe since World War Two.
(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.