The leader of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner said on Wednesday that his troops had taken "the entire eastern part" of the city of Bakhmout, the epicenter of the fighting in eastern Ukraine. "Wagner units have taken the entire eastern part of Bakhmout, everything east of the Bakhmoutka River," Yevgeny Prigozhin said in an audio message released by his press service.
In recent days, pressure has increased dramatically on Ukrainian forces defending Bakhmout, facing Russian advances and the threat of encirclement. In its latest account, released on Tuesday, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a US expert group, said Kremlin troops had "likely" captured the eastern part of the city after a "controlled withdrawal" of Ukrainian forces from this area.
In an interview with CNN, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, however, assured that his troops were determined to hold the city. After Bakhmout, the Russians “could go further. They could go to Kramatorsk, they could go to Sloviansk, the way would be clear 'for them' 'to other cities in Ukraine,' he said. While the strategic value of Bakhmout is disputed, the city has gained symbolic and tactical importance, given the heavy losses suffered by both sides. It is the longest and deadliest battle since the Russian offensive began in February 2022.
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