Russian mercenary group Wagner claims to have definitively conquered city of Bakhmut

The head of the private military company announced this in a video, while Ukrainian Forces initially denied it.

The leader of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, released a video Saturday announcing that the Russian group had conquered the town of Bakhmut, which has so far been the scene of heavy clashes between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

In the video, Prigozhin appears in Bakhmut accompanied by several mercenaries carrying a Russian flag. He addressed the camera for a brief moment to make the announcement and send a message to Ukrainian President Zelenski, who is in Japan to meet with several of the G-7 leaders, Joe Biden among them. "Today, when you see Biden, kiss him on the top of the head, say hello for me," Prigozhin shooed the Ukrainian president.

According to Prigozhin, his forces have searched Bakhmut house by house and are in control of the entire city. The mercenary leader also said that Wagner's units will withdraw from Bakhmut to regain strength and reorganize. Different expert voices in military analysis have concluded that Bakhmut has been the bloodiest site so far in the Ukrainian war.

Sources in the Ukrainian Armed Forces denied to Reuters the Russian takeover of the city, but this information could not be properly verified. Some OSINT sources claim that the Ukrainian units began to retreat in the early hours of the previous morning from Bakhmut. A video on social media showed a Ukrainian soldier assuring this, but there is no further information.

For Russia and Wagner, the seizure of Bakhmut has a great symbolic importance in the Ukrainian conflict, especially after the notorious brawls between the mercenary leader and the Russian Chief of Staff and the Defense Ministry, which Prigozhin accused of not providing sufficient support at the front. As for the strategic value of the city, many analysts have considered it to be mitigated in the context of other areas of conflict.