Zelenskyy Denies Bakhmut Has Fallen, Disputes Wagner Chief's Claims
Ukrainian Pres. Volodymyr Zelensky has denied that Russia has taken control of Bakhmut, despite saying that brutal fighting for control of the city has left it completely destroyed. His stance contradicts that of Russian paramilitary group Wagner, which claimed to save captured Bakhmut on Saturday.
- Ukrainian Pres. Volodymyr Zelensky has denied that Russia has taken control of Bakhmut, despite saying that brutal fighting for control of the city has left it completely destroyed. His stance contradicts that of Russian paramilitary group Wagner, which claimed to save captured Bakhmut on Saturday.1
- Earlier on Sunday, Zelenskyy stated that the city was only in the "hearts" of Ukrainian people. Following concern that the comment suggested recognition of Russian control, the Ukrainian government clarified, saying that Kyiv forces were still battling for the eastern city.2
- Zelenskyy's comments came ahead of his meeting with the US Pres. Joe Biden, at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan. He also compared the effect of conflict on Bakhmut — which had a pre-war population of 70K people — to the 'total destruction' of Hiroshima in 1945.3
- The Wagner Group claimed on Saturday to have fully captured the salt-mining town of Artyomovsk, known in Ukraine as Bakhmut, with state news agency TASS reporting Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin had "congratulated the assault units of Wagner." Even as the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the city's fall several hours later, Ukraine insisted the fighting for the city was not over.4
- "The operation to capture Bakhmut lasted 224 days," Wagner Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a video posted to Telegram, adding that it will be inspected until May 25 to, "create the necessary defense lines and hand it over to the military so that they can continue to work, and we ourselves will go to field camps."5
- Bakhmut has been the site of much of the fiercest fighting seen in Ukraine since Russia invaded the country. Western estimates put the number of Russian troops killed or wounded in the city at between 20K-30K, while it is understood that Kyiv's forces have suffered substantial losses in battles for the territory.1
Sources: 1BBC News, 2New York Times, 3The Telegraph, 4Al Jazeera, and 5CNN.
- Pro-Russia narrative, as provided by Reuters. Bakhmut is located along the E40 highway, which connects Ukraine's second-largest city Kharkiv with Russia's Rostov-on-Don. Russia's capture of Bakhmut will allow it to progress to Ukrainian cities further west and bring Moscow closer to its goal of conquering the entire Donbas region.
- Pro-Ukraine narrative, as provided by Associated Press. Bakhmut's fall is a blow to Ukraine and may give Russia some tactical advantages, but it won't prove decisive to the war's outcome. Putin's forces still face the enormous task of seizing the remaining Donetsk region, which is under firm Ukrainian control.
- Narrative C, as provided by Al Jazeera. Though Bakhmut is of little strategic value to Moscow, its capture is the greatest symbolic victory yet for Russia in 15 months of war. Bakhmut's fall could allow Russia to rally international support for a deal that might require Ukraine to make unacceptable compromises.