Ukraine Disputes Russia’s Takeover of Key City Bakhmut
On Sunday, Ukraine refuted reports that Russian forces had taken Bakhmut, the longest battle of the war so far. Instead, it said it was advancing around the outskirts, making it “very difficult” for Russian forces to remain in the shattered city.
President Volodymyr Zelensky stated it would be a pyrrhic victory for Moscow a day after President Vladimir Putin hailed Russian forces and private mercenary outfit Wagner who claimed to have conquered the city in eastern Ukraine.
Sitting next to US Vice President Joe Biden at the G7 conference in Hiroshima, Japan, he declared, “You have to understand there is nothing” in Bakhmut.
“For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts.”
The Ukrainian president, according to Zelensky’s spokeswoman, did not confirm the fall of Bakhmut to Russian forces.
The president has “denied the capture of Bakhmut,” according to Facebook posts by spokesman Sergiy Nykyforov.
Ukrainian troops “have semi-encircled the city,” as Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Malyar later put it.
The situation for the enemy in Bakhmut is extremely precarious due to the continued advance of our men in the suburbs on the flanks.
According to her, Ukrainian forces are still in command of a residential area and several factories.
For months, the Ukrainians fought to keep Bakhmut, despite secret U.S. recommendations that they shift their attention elsewhere.
However, some experts believe that Ukraine has weakened Russia’s defenses in other sectors of the front by inflicting huge losses on Russia in Bakhmut and forcing it to commit large resources.
Some of the heaviest combat in Moscow’s over a year long Ukraine offensive has taken place in Bakhmut, a salt-mining town that formerly had a population of 70,000.
Moscow would be able to bring home a crucial victory after a series of humiliating setbacks if Bakhmut fell, where both Moscow and Kyiv are said to have suffered huge losses.
It would also occur before Kyiv’s planned massive counteroffensive, which has been in the works for months. The collapse of the city, as Volodymyr Zelensky has pointed out, would pave the way for Russian soldiers to seize control of the surrounding Donbas region.
“As a result of offensive actions of the Wagner assault units, with the support of artillery and aviation of the ‘Southern’ unit, the liberation of the city of Artemovsk was completed,” Russia’s defense ministry announced, citing the Soviet-era name of Bakhmut.
The Kremlin released a statement that read, “Vladimir Putin congratulated the assault units of Wagner as well as all servicemen of units of the Russian armed forces who provided them with the necessary support and flank cover, on the completion of the operation to liberate” the city.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the boss of Wagner’s mercenaries, had earlier stated in a video uploaded on Telegram against a scene of wreckage that Bakhmut had fallen to his forces.
Mr. Prigozhin announced that all of Bakhmut had been captured by midday on May 20. Wagner forces will conduct a sweep of the city before turning it over to the Russian military.