The capture of Bakhmout was announced on Saturday May 20 by the Russian paramilitary group Wagner. However, Ukraine continues to claim to still control a few buildings in the largely destroyed city, and above all to advance in its suburbs by attacking the Russian flanks. Still, Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigojine, has indicated that his men will leave the city by June 1, as soon as the transfer of their positions to the Russian army is complete.

“In the western outskirts (of Bakhmout), the lines of defense are in place. So the Wagner group will leave Artiomovsk [Soviet name of the city, Editor’s note] between May 25 and June 1, “said Yevgeny Prigozhin in an audio recording released by his press service on Monday.

Then, Wagner’s boss again attacked the Russian military hierarchy, with whom he is in conflict, accusing those responsible of having deprived his men of ammunition and of being too far back from the field. “If there are not enough Ministry of Defense units (to occupy Bakhmout), there are thousands of generals (to do it), you have to form a regiment of generals, give them all guns, and you’ll be fine,” he quipped on Monday.

kyiv has not confirmed Bakhmout’s loss. Ukrainian ground forces commander Oleksandre Syrsky said on Sunday that his troops now controlled only an “insignificant” part of the city, but continued to advance on its flanks. On Monday, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Maliar assured the Ukrainian troops engaged in Bakhmout “control certain buildings”, adding on Telegram that “the battle on the flanks, north and south, continues”. “The fighting continues,” she repeated.

Ms. Maliar also welcomed the tactical success, according to her, of the relentless defense by the Ukrainian army of this city now devastated by the war.

Indeed, according to analysts and Kiev, the Russian forces have sacrificed a lot of men and equipment to conquer Bakhmout, troops which the Russians may miss when Ukraine launches its offensive to reconquer the occupied territories. “The defense of Bakhmout fulfills its military objectives,” Ms. Maliar said.

“The enemy’s offensive potential has been greatly reduced, the enemy has suffered huge losses and we have gained time,” she continued, as Kiev said it was completing preparations to launch a massive assault.

Consult our file: War in Ukraine