According to a Russian occupation official, Russian troops on Wednesday claimed advances into Bakhmout, the epicenter of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where fighting is raging in parts of the city.
“Rather tough hostilities continue in (Bachmout) (…) Fighting is already taking place somewhere in the outskirts, and somewhere in those neighborhoods that were still held by the enemy until recently,” said Denis Pushilin, leader of the Russian occupation of the Donetsk region , quoted by Russian news agencies.
According to him, Russian troops, especially mercenaries from the Wagner paramilitary group, are “on the rise”.
Bakhmout, which had a population of 70,000 before the conflict, has been repeatedly attacked by Russian troops since the summer, but they have so far failed to breach Ukraine’s defences.
The largely devastated city, whose strategic importance experts dispute, has become the scene of heavy casualties on both sides in recent months.
According to Mr Pushilin, the breach at Soledar, further north, that Russia claimed in early January played “a key role” in the current pushes at Bakhmout.
The capture of this city “made it possible to block the enemy’s supply routes and partially take operational control of areas” from which the Ukrainians attacked Russian positions, he continued.
The leader of the Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, informed him on Tuesday evening through his press service that “the purpose of taking Bakhmout is to destroy the Ukrainian army near the city and prevent any offensive in all directions.”
“All combat-ready units of the Ukrainian armed forces will be sent to Bakhmout and the Wagner group will destroy them, opening up opportunities for action in other directions of the front,” he said.
The Ukrainian General Staff confirmed Russian attacks on Bachmout and its surroundings in its daily report on Wednesday.
According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a US-based think tank, “Russian forces have made marginal territorial gains in Bakhmout.” He also noted reports of an ongoing Russian offensive at Vougledar further south.