According to a Kremlin statement reported by Russian news agencies, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated the Wagner mercenary group and the national army on their alleged seizure of the east Ukrainian city of Bakhmut late Saturday.
“Vladimir Putin congratulated the assault units of Wagner as well as all servicemen of units of the Russian armed forces who provided them with the necessary support and flank cover, on the completion of the operation to liberate Artemovsk (the Soviet-era name for Bakhmut),” the TASS news agency quoted the Kremlin statement as saying.
Russia has claimed complete control of Ukraine’s Bakhmut, with President Vladimir Putin praising his soldiers and the mercenary Wagner Group on the conquest of the completely leveled eastern city.
The Russian announcement came just hours after Kyiv stated the combat was still going on while conceding the situation was “critical.”
Bakhmut, a salt-mining town with a population of 70,000, has seen the longest and bloodiest combat of Russia’s 15-month conflict in Ukraine.
The fall of Bakhmut, where both Russia and Ukraine are thought to have suffered significant losses, would be Moscow’s first significant success in the conflict in more than ten months.
“As a result of offensive actions of the Wagner assault units, with the support of artillery and aviation of the ‘Southern’ unit, the liberation of the city of Artemovsk was completed,” Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement, using the Soviet-era name of Bakhmut.
“Vladimir Putin congratulated the assault units of Wagner as well as all servicemen of units of the Russian armed forces who provided them with the necessary support and flank cover, on the completion of the operation to liberate” the city, the TASS state news agency quoted a Kremlin statement as saying.
According to the news agency, the Russian president stated that people who have distinguished themselves would be recognized.