Russian forces edged closer to Bakhmut on Sunday, claiming to capture a village on the outskirts of the strategic city in eastern Ukraine as they hammered nearby settlements with tank rounds, mortar fire and artillery shells.
The Wagner private military company, whose forces have helped lead the brutal and monthslong Russian campaign to seize Bakhmut, said that its “assault units” had taken the village of Krasna Gora, near the northern edge of the city. The statement was made by the press service of Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the group’s founder, and included a video purporting to show Wagner fighters at the entrance to the village.
“This is what we have captured,” one fighter is heard saying as an explosion rings out. They will continue on to the next village, he added. There was no immediate comment from Russia’s Defense Ministry, and neither the claim nor the footage could be independently verified.
Bakhmut has emerged as a focal point of the war and an important prize for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who has poured troops into the battle for a city seen as key to his stated goal of seizing the entire area of eastern Ukraine known as Donbas.
The Ukrainian military’s general staff said on Sunday that Russian forces had shelled Krasna Gora and two dozen other settlements near Bakhmut over the past day, and said on Monday that more than a dozen had been shelled, continuing a pattern of intensifying attacks as Moscow begins to mount a renewed offensive in the east. It said on Monday that Ukrainian forces had repelled Russian attacks on Bakhmut, although Ukrainian soldiers in recent weeks have acknowledged that their hold on the city was slipping.