Russia’s Wagner paramilitary forces have claimed to have taken control of the embattled city of Bakhmut, also known as Artyomovsk, which is the administrative capital of the Russian-annexed region of Donetsk Oblast. Ukraine has denied the claim and says that the city remains embattled.
Bakhmut ‘Legally Taken’ – Russia
On Sunday night, April 2, Yevgeny Prigorzhin, the Wagner Group chief, released a video on Telegram showing him raising a Russian flag over Bakhmut’s city hall building. The video went viral on social media along with Prigorzhin’s message:
“We hoisted the Russian flag with the inscription “Good memory to Vladlen Tatarsky” and the flag of PMC “Wagner” on the city administration of Bakhmut. Legally Bakhmut is taken”.
Prigozhin hoists the Wagner flag over the central administration building in Bakhmut. Most of the central areas of Bakhmut is now under Wagner forces after managing to push out Ukrainian forces pic.twitter.com/flDZo8tHf6
— LogKa (@LogKa11) April 2, 2023
Prigorzhin dedicated the landmark moment to Vladlen Tatarsky, the Russian military blogger assassinated earlier on Sunday by bombing at a St. Petersburg cafe by a young woman. Russian authorities have arrested the woman and suspect her of operating on behalf of Ukrainian forces. On Monday (April 3), Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded the Order of Courage to Vladlen Tatarsky posthumously, as reported by Sputnik News.
Ukraine Denies the City’s Capture
Ukraine has rejected the claim by Prigorzhin, the Wagner chief, of taking control of Bakhmut. A Ukrainian military spokesperson told Reuters that Russian forces were far from taking control of Bakhmut.
Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, was cited by NBC News rejecting the Wagner claim as fake news:
“Don’t pay attention on “victory” fake inventors. Not even close to the reality.”
As reported in The Manila Times on Saturday (April 1st), Ukraininain government sources have previously acknowledged that Russia controls 65 percent of Bakhmut while a week ago, Prigozhin claimed to be in control of 70 percent of the city.
Referendum and Annexation
In September 2022, four former Ukrainian regions now under Russian control voted to join Russia: Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (LPR and DPR), Kherson, and part of Zaporozhye Region (Southern Ukraine). Since then they have been annexed and formally made part of Russia while Ukraine and its supporting states worldwide have refused to recognize the referendum.