Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Russian Wagner Group, said that his special forces will continue to fight on behalf of Moscow even after its withdrawal from Bakhmut.
“Wagner fighters will remain for the upcoming operations for Russia,” Russian state media quoted him as saying on Sunday.
In a major break with the Kremlin, Prigozhin announced in a furious video on Friday that he would withdraw his fighters from Bakhmut due to lack of ammunition from Moscow.
The Wagner Group is often described as the private army of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and has been used in Russian military operations in many countries.
It was reported that the fighters of the Chechen strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov, will take over Wagner positions in Bakhmut, starting next Wednesday.
Bakhmut has been under joint attack by the Russian army and Wagner’s forces for months.
The battle to capture Bakhmut is considered one of the bloodiest in the war, which began with the all-out Russian invasion more than a year ago.
Prigozhin’s press office as saying that the Russian forces took control of about 95% of Bakhmut.
In addition, a designated official from Russia said in the early hours of Sunday morning that Ukraine launched more than 10 drones overnight over Crimea, including three that targeted the port of Sevastopol, adding that the air defense systems repelled all attacks on the port.
“Nothing in Sevastopol was damaged,” Mikhail Razvogayev, the Moscow-appointed governor of Sevastopol, wrote on Telegram.
There were no immediate details of damage from the strikes elsewhere in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
According to a Ukrainian monitor of Telegram channels, explosions took place in Sevastopol and Saki, where Russia has an air base, as well as a few other places in Crimea.
The frequency of strikes on Russian-controlled targets has increased over the past two weeks, especially in Crimea.
Kiev says, without confirming any role in those attacks, that the destruction of infrastructure represents preparation for its planned ground offensive.
Ukraine has been preparing for an attack on Russian forces for months, and some analysts see these latest incidents as a sign that it is imminent.