Ukraine is fiercely resisting Russian assault on Bakhmut: Wagner chief

Ukrainian forces are fiercely resisting a Russian attempt to seize the small city of Bakhmut and are throwing massive extra reserves into the bloody battle, Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force, said on Wednesday.

Prigozhin’s men have spearheaded the assault in eastern Ukraine for months with Moscow regarding Bakhmut, which it calls by its Soviet-era name of Artyomovsk, as a useful stepping stone to seize bigger cities like Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

Ukrainian commanders have warned in recent days that the situation on the ground is getting much harder as Russia steps ups its attempts to encircle Bakhmut to claim its first major prize for more than half a year after some of the bloodiest fighting of the war.

“The Ukrainian army is throwing extra reserves into Artyomovsk and trying to hold the town with all their strength,” Prigozhin said in a short audio message released by his press service.

“Tens of thousands of Ukrainian army fighters are putting up furious resistance. The bloodiness of the battles is growing by the day.”

Thousands of residents remain inside the ruined city from a pre-war population of around 70,000.

As Russia kept Ukraine under pressure around Bakhmut, its defense ministry said its forces had repelled what it described as a massive drone attack on Crimea by Kyiv’s forces, Russian news agencies reported.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Kyiv demands that Moscow hand it back.

The defense ministry said the attempted Ukrainian drone attack had not inflicted any casualties.

The Kremlin said earlier on Wednesday it did not believe a statement by Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak that Ukraine does not launch attacks against targets on Russian territory.

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