Head of Russia's Wagner group claims full control of Bakhmut as Ukraine says 'fighting still going on'

20 May 2023, 16:36 | Updated: 20 May 2023, 23:47

The head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner has said his forces have taken full control of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, following the conflict's longest battle, but Ukrainian officials deny the claim.
The head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner has said his forces have taken full control of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, following the conflict's longest battle, but Ukrainian officials deny the claim. Picture: Getty / Alamy

By Chris Samuel

The head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner has said his forces have taken full control of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, the focus of the conflict's longest battle, but Ukrainian officials deny the claim.

In a video posted on Telegram, the paramilitary organisation's leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said the city, in the east of the war-torn country, was brought under complete Russian control at about midday on Saturday.

However, Ukraine denied his claims, but said the situation there is "critical".

Prigozhin spoke with around half a dozen fighters at his side, with explosions heard in the distance and ruined buildings visible behind him.

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But, after the video was posted, Ukraine's deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar said that there continued to be heavy fighting.

Yevgeny Prigozhin
Yevgeny Prigozhin. Picture: Getty

“The situation is critical,” she said. “As of now, our defenders control certain industrial and infrastructure facilities in this area.”

Speaking to AP, Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern command, dismissed Mr Prigozhin’s claim as “not true" and insisted: "Our units are fighting in Bakhmut”.

Ukrainian artillery teams fire Pions toward Russian positions in Bakhmut, February 5, 2023.
Ukrainian artillery teams fire Pions toward Russian positions in Bakhmut, February 5, 2023. Picture: Alamy
A Ukrainian APC drives towards frontline positions near Bakhmut, Ukraine, Saturday, March 4, 2023.
A Ukrainian APC drives towards frontline positions near Bakhmut, Ukraine, Saturday, March 4, 2023. Picture: Alamy

Fighting has raged around the city for over 200 days.

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