(Kostiantynivka) The Russian paramilitary group Wagner claimed responsibility for capturing the town hall of Bakhmout in eastern Ukraine on Monday, saying the conquest meant it now controlled the city “in a legal sense”.
“In the legal sense, Bakhmout was captured. The enemy is concentrated in the western areas,” Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said on his Telegram channel.
A video accompanying his message shows Mr Prigozhin waving a Russian flag with an inscription in honor of Vladlen Tatarsky, the Russian military blogger who was a staunch supporter of the offensive in Ukraine and who was killed by a bomb explosion in Saint Petersburg on Sunday. .
“The commanders of the units that took the town hall and the whole center will go and raise this flag,” he said. “Here is the Wagner Private Military Company, here are the guys who took Bakhmout. From a legal point of view, it is ours, ”he claims.
A city of some 70,000 inhabitants before the war, Bakhmout has been the scene of particularly violent fighting for months.
Due to the length of the battle and the heavy losses suffered by both sides, the city has become the symbol of the struggle between Russians and Ukrainians for control of the industrial region of Donbass.
Russian troops have advanced in recent months north and south of the city, cutting several Ukrainian supply routes and seizing its eastern part. On March 20, Yevgeny Prigojine claimed that Wagner controlled 70% of Bakhmout.
Ukraine believes the battle for Bakhmut is key to containing Russian forces across the entire eastern front, though analysts say the city’s strategic importance is limited.
Earlier on Sunday, a “massive attack” of Russian missiles killed six people in residential areas of Kostiantynivka, near Bakhmout, in eastern Ukraine, whose President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the resistance to ” the greatest force against humanity of our time”.
The head of state was speaking on the occasion of the discovery a year ago of the bodies of civilians killed in Boutcha, a town near Kyiv that has become a symbol of the atrocities committed by the Russians. The latter have repeatedly denied any involvement, citing a “staging” of the Ukrainians and their allies.
This macabre anniversary came the day after Russia took over the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, where it faces Westerners who banned it from nations after the outbreak of the invasion of the United Nations. ‘Ukraine.
On the ground, fierce clashes continue around Bakhmout, which has been at the epicenter of the fighting for months.
The situation in the region “is still very tense”, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Maliar said on Sunday. “The enemy is trying to engage not only the fighters of (the paramilitary organization) Wagner, but also professional paratrooper units. Excessively high man casualties do not stop the enemy,” she added.
Russia “continues to concentrate the bulk of its efforts on the conduct of offensive actions in the sectors of Lyman, Bakhmout, Avdiivka and Mariinka”, noted in the evening the staff of the Ukrainian army, assuring that ” many enemy attacks” on Bakhmout were repelled on Sunday.
The same day, about 27 km from this ruined city, in Kostiantynivka, a Russian bombardment left six dead, three men and three women, and eleven wounded, announced the Ukrainian authorities.
It was “just living quarters”, “ordinary civilians from an ordinary city in the Donbass” who were targeted, President Zelensky reacted.
AFP journalists saw a large crater in a courtyard and shattered windows from the ground floor to the upper floors in two 14-storey buildings, while the roofs of neighboring houses were shattered.
Police said Russia carried out a “massive attack” in the morning, six S-300 and Hurricane missile strikes.
“Sixteen apartment buildings, eight private residences, a kindergarten, an administrative building, three cars and a gas pipeline” were affected in total, she said.
Lilia, a 19-year-old psychology student met outside her badly damaged apartment building with shards of glass still falling from the windows as she spoke, said she was “shocked”.
“I was very lucky not to have been home at that time,” she said.
Nina, a retiree, was seeing the damage done to her apartment on the ground floor of a Soviet-era building. She was also not at home when the explosions happened.
“The interior doors and the front door were blown out. An internal dividing wall has broken down. There’s not a single window left,” she explained.
Mortar fire also killed two people in the Sumy region (northeast), lamented Volodymyr Zelensky.
“These are just a few examples of the dozens of bombardments every day. There is only one way to stop Russian terrorism and restore security to all our cities and communities […]. And this path is a military victory for Ukraine,” he continued.
“A day will come when we will say: the last occupier fled or was killed” in the east or south, the peninsula unilaterally annexed in 2014 by Moscow from “Crimea will be free and secure again.” Ukraine will take back everything that belongs to it,” the head of state concluded.
“Ukrainian people!” You have stopped the greatest force against humanity of our time. You have stopped a force that despises and wants to destroy everything that matters to people,” Mr. Zelensky had exclaimed hours earlier on Telegram, a year after the discovery of numerous corpses in Boutcha at the result of the withdrawal of the Russian military.
On April 2, 2022, AFP journalists saw the bodies of twenty men in this locality, one of whom had his hands tied behind his back, in addition to the charred carcasses of vehicles and destroyed houses.
Scenes that had caused shock waves around the world.
That same Sunday in Russia, a well-known Russian military blogger – Vladlen Tatarsky – a strong supporter of the military offensive in Ukraine, was killed by “an explosive device” in a cafe in St. Petersburg. Twenty-five people were injured.
“Russian journalists constantly feel the threat of reprisals from the Kyiv regime,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said shortly after, assuring that Vladlen Tatarsky was “dangerous” for Ukraine.
“Spiders devour each other in a jar. The question of when domestic terrorism would become an instrument of domestic political struggle was only a matter of time,” commented Mikhailo Podoliak, an adviser to the President of Ukraine, predicting that “trouble” will inevitably arise on Russian soil.