Ukraine Russia send museum pieces’ to the front

Russia’s defence ministry and President Vladimir Putin are claiming that forces of the Wagner private army have seized the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut with the help of Russian artillery and air support.

The ministry statement on the Telegram channel came about eight hours after a similar claim by Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin. Ukrainian authorities at that time said fighting for Bakhmut was continuing.

However, a statement from the Kremlin said: “Vladimir Putin congratulated the assault units of Wagner as well as all servicemen of units of the Russian armed forces who provided them with the necessary support and flank cover, on the completion of the operation to liberate Artemovsk (the Soviet-era name for Bakhmut).”

The eight-month battle for the city in eastern Ukraine is the longest and probably most bloody of the conflict in Ukraine.

Using the city’s Soviet-era name, the Russian ministry said: “In the Artyomovsk tactical direction, the assault teams of the Wagner private military company with the support of artillery and aviation of the southern battlegroup has completed the liberation of the city of Artyomovsk.”

There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian officials about the latest claim.

In a video posted earlier on Telegram, Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin said the city came under complete Russian control at about midday on Saturday.

He spoke flanked by about a half dozen fighters, with ruined buildings in the background and explosions heard in the distance.

After the video appeared, Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern command, told The Associated Press that Mr Prigozhin’s claim “is not true. Our units are fighting in Bakhmut.”

In a statement on Facebook, the Ukrainian General Staff said that “heavy battles for the city of Bakhmut do not stop.”

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Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said that “this is not the first time Prigozhin has said ‘we seized everything and are dominating’.”

He suggested that the Wagner chief’s statement was aimed at drawing attention away from Mr Zelensky’s recent highly visible trips overseas, including to the G7 summit in Japan.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak pledged that Britain’s support for Ukraine would “never waver”, after meeting Volodymyr Zelensky at the G7 summit in Hiroshima.

The Prime Minister said he was glad the group of allies have agreed on the importance of providing the Ukrainian president with the advanced military equipment he needs as he pushes for F-16 fighter jets.

“From providing Challenger tanks to long-range missiles and pilot training, the UK’s support for Ukraine’s defence will never waver”, he said.

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