The fight for Bakhmut, a city in eastern Ukraine and scene of the longest-running battle since Moscow’s offensive, is far from over, the head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group said Tuesday.
Bakhmut has been at the centre of months of heavy fighting in Russia’s nearly year-long offensive in Ukraine, with both sides suffering heavy losses.
Observers of the conflict have downplayed Bakhmut’s strategic importance, but the city has turned into a key political and symbolic prize.
It is located in the industrial Donetsk region that Moscow seeks to control completely.
“Bakhmut will not be taken tomorrow, because there is heavy resistance and grinding, the meat grinder is working,” Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said as quoted by his press service.
“We will not be celebrating in the near future,” he added.
He said that Ukraine is “becoming more active, pulling up more and more new reserves”.
“Every day, between 300 and 500 new fighters approach Bakhmut from all directions,” he said, adding that “artillery fire intensifies with every day”.
Kyiv on Monday conceded a “difficult” situation north of Bakhmut in the village of Paraskoviivka, saying it was “under intense shelling and assaults”.
The same day Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had captured Krasna Gora, a village adjacent to Paraskoviivka.
According to Prigozhin, “heavy fighting” is ongoing in the north.
The Kremlin-appointed leader of the Donetsk region, Denis Pushilin, said Tuesday there were no signs that Ukraine will cede the city, which President Volodymyr Zelensky has described as a “fortress”.
“We fully understand that there is currently no prospect of the enemy abandoning their positions without a fight,” Pushilin said as quoted by Russian news agencies.
Last week Pushilin said that Russian forces had cut three out of four Ukrainian supply routes to Bakhmut.