On Saturday, mercenaries from the Russian private military contractor, the Wagner Group claimed victory in the town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine after a grueling battle that lasted eight months. For the most part, the pro-Moscow camp was delighted to finally dislodge the stubborn Ukrainian defenders.
Although Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has denied on Sunday the fall of BakhmutRussian businessman and wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed otherwise in a voice note to his 420,000 Telegram subscribers.
“There is not a single Ukrainian soldier in the village of Bakhmut, for the reason that we have stopped taking prisoners,” he said.
“There are a large number of corpses from the Ukrainian army. Bakhmut is taken completely along all its legal borders, to the last centimeter. Vladimir Alexandrovich [Zelenskyy] is dishonest, or he, like our military leaders, is simply unaware of what is happening on the ground.
In a statement to the official Kremlin press service, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated the Russian army and Wagner group of mercenaries on the capture of Artemovsk, as the city was known in Soviet times and until 2016.
Footage broadcast on Russian TV and Telegram showed the Russian flag waving on the roof of a building still standing among the ruins of Bakhmut.
“Without exaggeration, a historic moment – Wagner’s fighters hoist the Russian flag, and the flag of their company, on the last street of Artemovsk,” Amir Yusupov, an embedded frontline correspondent, reported for the state-run Channel. . A.
“The city was cleaned up… Many could have left at the end of their contract, but everyone stayed.”
A masked mercenary interviewed on camera compared the experience to World War II.
“How could I leave the guys?” He asked. “I had to see this moment. These are probably the same emotions our grandfathers felt in Berlin.
The Wagner Orchestra, a Telegram channel that describes itself as ‘fans’ of the mercenary outfit, posted a video of bearded commander Alexander ‘Ratibor’ Kuznetsov raising Russian and Wagnerian flags over the ruined city and shouting ethnic slurs at Ukrainians , telling them to “fuck off!”
Another video on the channel shows a group of Wagner fighters triumphantly firing their weapons in the air as a Wagner flag flutters in the background.
An article by the state news agency RIA Novosti on the “liberation of Artemovsk” blames Ukrainian forces for all civilian casualties.
“Before the start of the conflict, more than seventy thousand people lived here,” it read.
“Most have left the city. According to the refugees, Ukrainian soldiers deliberately fired on civilians.
The article asserted that, despite Ukrainian propaganda, “Bakhmut fortresshad indeed fallen, allowing Russian forces to move to the nearby town of Chasiv Yar.
“This is a victory, one of those that brings the main victory closer,” wrote Andrey Medvedev, a former Moscow journalist and politician, on Telegram.
“The road ahead of us is long and difficult, and we still have a lot to do. There will be failures and disappointments. There will be days of dark despair and disbelief. But on those days, we can only remember Bakhmut… Glory to the Russian soldier!
Not a tactical victory
Despite Moscow’s claims of victory, Igor Girkin, nom de guerre Strelkov, a former Russian soldier and intelligence officer who led the initial uprising of eastern Ukrainian separatists in 2014-2015, painted a bleaker picture for his nearly 800,000 Telegram subscribers.
He describes the capture of Bakhmut as not being a victory in a tactical sense, but part of the Kremlin’s policy of “freezing the conflict through a compromise agreement”, and as such not intending to exhaust the enemy only until Kiev and its Western allies agree. let Russia keep Crimea and Donbass. Strelkov is a hard-line Russian nationalist who thinks that Moscow does not take the conquest of Ukraine seriously enough.
“Overall, the operation ended in a strategic failure of our troops,” Strelkov wrote. “The enemy was NOT driven out of Donbass in all major directions, in most directions – not moved at all.”
He added that the Russian army had exhausted the stocks of weapons, ammunition and manpower which will be “necessary for further offensive operations”.
“That’s why Bakhmut has come under increased scrutiny over the past couple of months – it was necessary to get at least a result ‘for propaganda’ in order to ‘breathe’ afterwards. And so we won, sort of,” Strelkov said.
Strelkov also warned that the resources spent on Bakhmut, a ‘useless’ and ‘pyrrhic’ victory that was ‘not worth the effort and money spent on it’, will make the Russian side vulnerable to Ukrainian counter-offensive .