Wagner battalions had led a months-long Russian assault on the eastern city, but Ukrainian forces claim that the assault has stalled. As part of what the Kremlin describes as a ‘very difficult’ military operation, a Ukrainian unit claimed on Wednesday that it had defeated a Russian brigade close to the Bakhmut stronghold.
The unit’s claim seems to buttress comments by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner private army, that the Russian brigade had abandoned its positions in Bakhmut, Moscow’s main objective in its winter offensive and scene of the deadliest battle on the ground in Europe since World War Two. The head of Ukraine Ground Forces, Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, said, ‘As a result of the counter-strike, Russian units have withdrawn up to 1.2 miles.’
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, was quoted by Tass news agency as saying that the ongoing military operation is challenging, and despite facing difficulties, some objectives have been achieved within a year. He stated that the Russian missile strikes in Ukraine have caused significant damage to the Ukrainian military, and they have managed to weaken it considerably. He added that the operation will continue, and their efforts will be sustained.
He also stated that the campaign in Eastern Ukraine is going slowly because Russia will not conduct war, but they will capture Bakhmut and keep it under control.
Peskov did not respond to allegations that the 72nd Separate Motor-rifle Brigade of Russia had left their positions on the southwestern outskirts of Bakhmut. The Third Separate Assault Brigade of Ukraine released a statement confirming the accuracy of Prigozhin’s report regarding the departure of the Russian brigade from near Bakhmut and the alleged presence of 500 dead Russians.
In a subsequent social media statement, Prigozhin reported that the Wagner forces had progressed by 170 metres (530 feet), while the Ukrainian troops were restricted to a limited area of 2.25 square kilometres (just under one square mile). The Ukrainian soldiers were facing mounting pressure in the western regions, which contained tall apartment buildings