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8 Mar, 2023 09:52

Wagner chief reports progress in key Donbass city

Russian forces have captured “everything” east of the Bakhmutka River in Artyomovsk, Evgeny Prigozhin has claimed
Wagner chief reports progress in key Donbass city

Russian forces are in full control of the eastern part of the strategic Donbass city of Artyomovsk, or Bakhmut as it’s called by Ukraine, the head of the Wagner Group private military company Evgeny Prigozhin has said.

“The units of the Wagner Group PMC have taken over the entire eastern part of Artyomovsk. Everything east of the Bakhmutka River is completely under the control of the Wagner Group,” Prigozhin announced in an audio message published by his press service on Wednesday.

The Wagner Group chief also posted a video of himself posing in front of the famous T-34 tank monument in the eastern part of Artyomovsk.

The Bakhmutka River cuts the city roughly in half, running from north to south.

Prigozhin’s claims have been corroborated by the Institute for the Study of War, with the Washington-based think tank saying in its daily report on Tuesday that “Russian forces have likely captured the eastern part of Bakhmut east of the Bakhmutka River following a controlled Ukrainian withdrawal.”

The battle for Artyomovsk – a major stronghold and logistics hub for Kiev’s forces in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) – has been underway for months, being described by some as the fiercest in the conflict between Moscow and Kiev. Earlier this week, Russian officials said the encirclement of the city had almost been completed and reported heavy street battles inside it.

Speaking about Artyomovsk earlier this week, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin suggested that the city was more of symbolic than operational importance. “The fall of [Artyomovsk] won’t necessarily mean that the Russians have changed the tide of this fight,” the Pentagon chief said.

However, Austin was contradicted by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, who explained that “taking [Artyomovsk] under control will allow [the Russian forces] further offensive actions deep into the defense of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has repeatedly insisted that he wouldn’t surrender the city, despite reports of his Western backers and military advisers reportedly urging him to cut his losses and withdraw.

Senior Biden administration officials told the Washington Post in late February that the Ukrainian leader “attaches symbolic importance” to the city and fears a setback to morale if it were captured by Russian forces.