Wagner says Russian fighters near central Bakhmut ‘kill zone’
KIEV (UKRAINE) – The head of Russia’s paramilitary group Wagner said his fighters were near the center of Bakhmut on Saturday, as a senior Ukrainian commander insisted it was important to “buy time” ahead of an imminent counteroffensive.
British intelligence said in an update the frontline in the battle for Bakhmut, the longest and bloodiest battle of the year-long invasion of Moscow, had shifted – but any further Russian advance into the devastated city could be “very challenging”.
Some military experts have questioned the sense of the ongoing battle over Bakhmut, but Ukrainian officials say the town’s fall could lead to further Russian advances east.
In a video released on Saturday, Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, said his forces were near the Bakhmut administrative center.
Prigozhin stands on the roof of a skyscraper in Bakhmut and points to a building in the distance.
“This is the city government building, this is the center of the city,” he said.
“It’s a kilometer and two hundred meters away,” said Prigozhin, dressed in full military gear.
With artillery pounding in the background, Prigozhin said the most important thing now was to get more ammunition from the army and “go forward.”
Wagner has led offensives against cities in eastern Ukraine, including Bakhmut. Both sides have suffered heavy casualties.
Earlier this week Wagner said his fighters had taken the eastern part of Bakhmut.
– ‘Necessary to gain time’ –
Commander of Ukraine’s Ground Forces Oleksandr Syrsky said Saturday the battle for Bakhmut helped buy time to prepare for a future counter-offensive.
“The real heroes now are the defenders who hold the Eastern Front on their shoulders and inflict the heaviest casualties without sparing themselves or the enemy,” Syrski was quoted as saying in a statement.
“It is necessary to buy time to build up reserves and launch a counter-offensive that is not far away.”
The military said Syrsky is in the “most important area” of the front line, but gave no further details.
British military intelligence said the Bakhmutka River in central Bakhmut now marked the front line.
“Ukrainian forces are holding the west of the city and have destroyed key bridges across the river, which runs north-south through a 200-800 meter strip of open ground,” the UK MoD said.
“This area has become a kill zone, likely making it a major challenge for Wagner forces attempting to continue their westward frontal attack.”
Prigozhin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, is locked in a power struggle with the Defense Ministry.
He has repeatedly claimed battlefield victories ahead of the Russian army, criticized top Russian forces and accused the military of not sharing ammunition with his ragtag forces.
On Saturday, he said he was ready to ask forgiveness from Russia’s top commanders, but appeared to mock Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov.
He said they were “outstanding military commanders,” adding that Russia’s top military leaders, including Georgy Zhukov and Alexander Suvorov, “could have learned from them.”
“I absolutely – fully – support all their initiatives,” Prigozhin added.
– Shelling of Cherson –
The Russian army continued to shell the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, killing three people and wounding two others, Ukrainian officials said on Saturday.
“Russian terrorists are again shelling Kherson,” said Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential office.
He posted a picture of firefighters next to a charred car.
Several cars were damaged by the shelling.
Galyna Kolisnyk, 53, said the Russians struck while she was in a shop.
“When we walked in, literally five minutes later, this tragedy happened,” she told AFP.
“Explosions started, our car was hit,” she said. “That’s awful.”
Kherson is the capital of one of four regions that Russia is said to have annexed but does not fully control, along with Donetsk, Lugansk and Zaporizhia.
Despite Russia’s withdrawal from the city of Kherson late last year, it has been regularly bombed by Moscow’s troops.
Donetsk separatist mayor Alexei Kulemzin said on Saturday that two people, including a young boy, were killed as a result of Ukrainian shelling.
Source: Crypto News Deutsch