Zelenskyi confirms that Russia captured Bakhmut after the bloodiest battle of the eight-month Ukraine War
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed that Russia has taken control of the key city of Bakhmut.
It comes after a bloody eight-month battle involving Vladimir Putin’s forces and the Wagner Group’s private army that left the city in ruins.
Fighting around the eastern city, once home to 70,000 people, has been among the fiercest since the Russians invaded last February.
The fighting, with its fierce trench warfare and brutal hand-to-hand combat, is compared to the battles of Verdun and the Somme in World War I.
Ukraine held out steadfastly, but faced constant waves of Wagner Group fighters and Russian conscripts in a so-called “meat grinder.”
The capture of the city was first announced yesterday by Putin’s mercenary warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin waving a Russian flag among the ruins.
And while his claim initially met with skepticism, Zelenskyy confirmed the city’s demise when he attended the G7 summit.
Bakhmut was considered a symbol of the Ukrainian resistance – and his fall would be a heavy blow to Kiev.
However, with more Western weapons on the way, analysts remain confident that Ukraine can launch a successful counteroffensive in the coming weeks and months.
Zelenskyy was asked about Bakhmut while attending a meeting with US President Joe Biden in Japan after he flew in yesterday to attend the important summit.
When asked if it would remain under Kyiv’s control, the heroic president replied, “I think no.”
“For today, Bachmut is only in our hearts. It’s a tragedy. There is nothing in this place.”
Zelenskyy pointed out that Russia and the Wagner group “destroyed everything” when they tried to take control of Bakhmut.
Wagner warlord Prigozhin announced his apparent victory yesterday when he released a video with his Bakhmut cronies.
Ukraine initially denied having taken control – both later conceded the situation as “critical”.
Prigozhin looked pleased with himself as he stood in the desolate ruins of a city reduced to rubble.
“We’ve taken over the whole town, house to house,” he crowed.
The Wagner Group is a private army that is often seen as Putin’s private mercenary force – but has appeared to be at odds with Moscow in recent months.
Known as “Putin’s chef” due to his previous job as a chef in the hospitality industry, Prigozhin is believed to have ambitions to one day take power in the Kremlin.
But Putin also wanted to take credit for the victory, praising his troops while Russia celebrated the capture of Bakhmut.
Russia’s capture of the city is believed to have come at an incredible cost – some estimates put the death toll at up to 80,000 and around 20,000 on their side.
NATO understands that the Ukrainians stayed strong by a five-to-one ratio as they fought back against the invaders.
It’s another Pyrrhic victory for Putin, who is estimated to have lost up to 200,000 troops.
Prigozhin said his troops would withdraw from Bakhmut to rest and retrain starting May 25, handing over control to the regular Russian army.
As Prigozhin spoke during the video, distant explosions could be heard in the background.
In the video, the Wagner boss mocked Zelenskyy and Biden, who were attending a G7 summit together in Japan, where the Ukraine war was a priority for world leaders.
Prigozhin turned to Zelenskyy and said: “If you see Biden today, kiss him on the head and give him my regards.”
And earlier this month, after a furious tirade against Putin, Prigozhin had threatened to withdraw his troops and branded him an “asshole” for failing to supply sufficient ammunition.
The warlord himself has admitted in the past that the small town was of no strategic importance.
However, due to the intensity of the fighting and the scale of the casualties, it acquired tremendous symbolic importance for both sides.
The Sun’s Jerome Starkey reported this week from a secret underground bunker on the battlefield.
He called it a “WWI-style hellscape of craters, barbed wire and battlefield trenches.”
He described how Ukraine’s 3rd Assault Brigade used tanks and infantry to advance 1,000 meters across farmland south of the city in recent days, while panic spread through Russian lines.
General Syrskyi said the attack “brought the entire Russian army to a standstill.”
Bakhmut’s ouster comes as Ukraine is poised to receive F-16 fighter jets now that the US has finally agreed to hand them over — a move that could be crucial given the brutal 15- months of war continues.
Putin claimed the invasion of Russia was merely a “special military operation” that would only last two weeks.
Now tens of thousands of Russians — up to 200,000 — lie dead in fields across Ukraine.
And millions of Ukrainian civilians have endured untold misery as cities were vandalized and their homes stolen.
Putin foolishly believed his armed forces would be welcomed as liberators in Ukraine.
But instead, the first attack ended in disaster, with his forces annihilated and thrown back to Russia.
Kiev, too, continues to demand Western weapons they believe they need to defeat the Russians.
The world awaits to see what Ukraine will accomplish in its forthcoming counteroffensive – with hopes that it could make decisive advances on the front lines.