Battles intensified around Bakhmut and Kiev forces are fighting fiercely
Ukraine confirmed Monday that it will continue to fight for Bakhmut, asserting its control over part of the city, while the Russian armed Wagner Group announced that it will transfer control of the destroyed city to the Russian army by June 1.
Ukraine denied the fall of Bakhmut in the hands of the Russian forces, indicating that it is still holding on to one area of the city, and stressing that the battles are continuing.
This came after the Wagner group and the Russian regular army announced, at the end of the week, the control of Bakhmut.
“The battles continue,” said Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar, the day after President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that Bakhmut wasn’t occupied by Russia.
Maliar added that the Ukrainian forces still control the planes landing area in Bakhmut.
She added, “The battle for the heights on the outskirts – north and south of the suburbs – continues”.
The head of the Wagner group, whose forces are leading the attack on Bakhmut, announced on Saturday that his fighters had taken control of the city.
On Monday, he announced that his forces would leave Bakhmut by June 1 and hand over control of it to regular Russian forces.
“The Wagner Group will leave Artyomovsk (the Soviet name for the city) between May 25 and June 1,” Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a recorded video posted on Telegram.
Prigozhin indicated that his forces established defense lines on the western outskirts of the city before transferring control to the Russian army.
“If the Defense Ministry doesn’t have enough units, we have thousands of generals,” said Prigozhin, who is locked in increasingly public disagreements with Russia’s military leadership.
Prigozhin was a harsh critic of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Army Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov, whom he accused of incompetence and of causing large-scale losses to Moscow in the conflict in Ukraine.
It was previously announced that the Wagner fighters would withdraw by May 25.