Although Russia claims it has won control of Ukraine’s eastern city of Bakhmut, after a grinding nine-month conflict in which tens of thousands of fighters have died, top Ukrainian military leaders say the battle is not over.
Ukrainian officials acknowledge they now control only a small part of Bakhmut.
But, Ukraine says, their fighters’ presence has played a key role in their strategy of exhausting the Russian military. And they say their current positions in the areas surrounding Bakhmut will let them strike back inside the 400-year-old city.
“Despite the fact that we now control a small part of Bakhmut, the importance of its defense does not lose its relevance,” said General Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of ground forces for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. “This gives us the opportunity to enter the city in case of a change in the situation. And it will definitely happen.”
The fog of war makes it impossible to confirm the situation on the ground in Bakhmut. Russia’s defense ministry said Wagner mercenaries backed by Russian troops had seized the city, but Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Bakhmut was not being fully occupied.
In a video posted on Telegram, Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed the city came under complete Russian control at about midday Saturday. Holding a Russian flag before a group of at least nine masked fighters in body army who were toting heavy weapons, Prigozhin proclaimed: “This afternoon at 12:00, Bakhmut was completely taken.”