In the early hours of Monday morning, Russia’s Wagner paramilitary group claimed at least partial victory over Bakhmut by raising both the Russian and Wagner group flags over government administration buildings in the city.
Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin noted that Bakhmut is “ours” but in a “legal sense” only. Prigozhin wrote on Telegram, “The commanders of the units that took city hall and the whole center will go and put up this flag,” he said, referring to a Russian flag that is shown being raised in a video that accompanied the Telegram post. “This is the Wagner private military company, these are the guys who took Bakhmut. In a legal sense, it’s ours,” Prigozhin concluded.
Two weeks ago, Prigozhin had announced that Russian and Wagner forces controlled 70 percent of Bakhmut, which has been destroyed by the fighting. The Ukrainians have continued to mount as much of a defense as possible around the city, but limited ammunition and other resources have made the defense of Bakhmut difficult for Ukrainian forces.
Just hours prior to Prigozhin’s post of the video of the Russian flag being raised, the Ukrainian general staff said that “the enemy has not stopped its assault of Bakhmut… Ukrainian defenders are courageously holding the city as they repel numerous enemy attacks.”
According to Russian sources, Ukrainian troops are still on the Western outskirts of the city.
However, at the end of last week, it was already painfully clear that Wagner forces were on the brink of taking Bakhmut’s city center.
On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky remained somewhat hopeful that Kyiv could hold onto Bakhmut. “I am grateful to our warriors who are fighting near Avdiivka, Maryinka, near Bakhmut… Especially Bakhmut! It’s especially hot there today!” Zelensky posted on Telegram.
Meanwhile, according to Ukrainian authorities, a “massive attack” of Russian missiles on Sunday left 3 men and 3 women dead and 11 others wounded in Kostyantynivka, about 27 kilometers (17 miles) away from Bakhmut. Zelensky noted that the affected areas are “just residential areas,” where “ordinary civilians of an ordinary city of Donbas,” were targeted by the Russian missile strike.
In an interview last week, Zelenksy indicated that Ukraine may be forced to negotiate a peace agreement with Russia if Ukrainian forces are defeated in Bakhmut. Zelensky also suggested in his comments that his forces have suffered tremendous losses.