Ukraine, US Officials Say Bakhmut Holds Despite Wagner Group Claims


(RFE/RL) — Ukraine’s military has disputed claims by Wagner that the Russian mercenary force has captured the center of battle-devastated Bakhmut, and a U.S. official denied the fight for the eastern Ukrainian city was over as Washington said more aid was on the way to Kyiv.

John Kirby, spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, on April 3 told reporters that the Ukrainian military had not been driven out of Bakhmut, which Russian forces — led by Wagner — have struggled to capture during months of brutal fighting.

He described fighting there as “quite, quite violent and quite close.”

“Even if the Russians do get it, it isn’t going to change the battlefield dynamics from a strategic perspective,” he said, reflecting views in the West that the city holds more of a symbolic value for Moscow seeking a victory to hail than an actual strategic worth.

Kriby also said the next U.S. aid allotment for Ukraine would be announced this week, following a Reuters report last week that a new $2.6 billion military aid package that could include air-surveillance radars, anti-tank rockets, and fuel trucks would be unveiled soon.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko said on April 3 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had delivered to Ukraine the first $2.7 billion tranche under the organization’s Extended Fund Facility.

“Grateful to our partners for supporting Ukraine on the way to victory,” Marchenko said on Twitter

Earlier in the day, a Ukrainian military spokesman said fighting was ongoing in Bakhmut and other nearby towns.

“Bakhmut is Ukrainian and they have not captured anything and are very far from doing that, to put it mildly,” Serhiy Cherevatiy, a spokesman for the eastern military command, told Reuters.

He claimed that Wagner’s forces had attached a flag “to the side of who knows what, hung their rag and said they had captured the city. Well, good, let them think they’ve taken it.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner group, said in a video on his press service’s Telegram channel on April 2 that his troops had raised a Russian flag on Bakhmut’s administration building.

“From a legal point of view, Bakhmut has been taken. The enemy is concentrated in the western parts [of the city],” Prigozhin said.

Russian and Ukrainian forces have each invested heavily in the battle for Bakhmut, even though analysts say the city carries little strategic value. The monthslong fight for the city is considered one of the bloodiest between Ukrainian and Russian forces since Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Much of the city has been left in ruin and each side has sustained significant troop losses in street fighting that has seen shifting lines of control.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on April 2 said in his nightly video address that the military situation in the Bakhmut area was “especially hot.”

“Thank you to our soldiers who are fighting in Avdiyivka, Maryinka, and Bakhmut. Especially Bakhmut. It is especially hot there,” he said.

Zelenskiy has vowed to continue fighting to maintain control of the city.

On April 3, Zelenskiy and German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck visited wounded soldiers in a hospital in the Chernihiv region. Zelenskiy later thanked Habeck for Germany’s support.

Habeck, who also serves as Germany’s economy minister and is responsible for energy policy, arrived in Ukraine in an unannounced visit, traveling with a business delegation.

He said the visit was aimed at sending a clear sign “that we believe they will be victorious, that they will be rebuilt, that there is an interest on Europe’s part not just to support them in an emergency, but in Ukraine being an economically strong partner in the future.”


RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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