Vladimir Putin Praises His Wagner Troops For Completely Taking Bakhmut, With Ukrain Forces Still Advancing Around The City

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vincity May 22, 2023
Updated 2023/05/22 at 8:04 AM

93rd Kholodnyi Yar Separate Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Shows An aerial view shows destruction in the frontline town of Bakhmut,

Ukraine said on Sunday that its forces were still advancing around the edges of Bakhmut, aiming to encircle the ruined eastern city after Moscow congratulated the Wagner private army and Russian troops for capturing it.

Russia said on Saturday it had completely taken Bakhmut, which, if confirmed, would mark an end to the longest and bloodiest battle of the 15-month war. Russian President Vladimir Putin praised his regular troops and the Wagner group.

On Sunday, however, a top Ukrainian general said Kyiv’s forces still controlled what he accepted was an “insignificant” part of Bakhmut, although that would allow them to enter the city when the situation changed.

General Oleksandr Syrskyi said in a Telegram post that Kyiv’s troops were advancing on Russian forces in the suburbs and getting closer to a “tactical encirclement” of the city, formerly home to 70,000 people.

Syrskyi, the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, said on Sunday he had visited front-line positions near Bakhmut, where fighting has raged for more than nine months. Syrskyi’s assertion that Ukrainian forces were continuing their advance along the flanks of the city was echoed by Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar.

“Our forces have taken the city in a semi-encirclement, which gives us the opportunity to destroy the enemy … the enemy has to defend himself in the part of the city he controls,” Maliar said on Telegram.

Ukrainian troops were still defending industrial and infrastructure facilities and had claimed part of the overlooking heights, Maliar said.

In the past 24 hours, the Russian offensive around Bakhmut has not let up, including air strikes on the city and the village of Ivanivske on its western approaches, said a statement by the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Later on Sunday, Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said in an audio message on Telegram that his group’s job was done and his forces would leave the conflict zone within days.

“Wagner today captured no territory. We have captured all the territory we promised to capture, right up to the last centimetre,” Prigozhin said. “As we stated yesterday. We are handing over our positions to (Russia’s) Defence Ministry and on the 25th (of May) we are leaving the conflict zone.”

Bakhmut has no strategic value according to military analysts, although Moscow has said that capturing it would be a stepping stone towards advancing deeper into the industrial region of Donbas it claims to have annexed from Ukraine.

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