Ukraine’s military on Sunday said it pushed back Russian forces in the area of Blahodatne in the eastern part of the Donetsk region. But Russia’s Wagner Group, a private military company led by a rogue millionaire, said it took control of the village, reported news agency Reuters.
“Units of Ukraine’s Defence Forces repelled the attacks of the occupiers in the areas of … Blahodatne … in the Donetsk region,” the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said in its daily morning report, referring to fighting on Saturday.
Ukraine said its forces repelled Russian attacks in the areas of 13 other settlements in the Donetsk region. But the Wagner group said on the Telegram messaging app on Saturday that its units had taken control of Blahodatne.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the reports.
WHAT IS WAGNER GROUP?
Fierce battles in eastern Ukraine have thrown a new spotlight on the Wagner Group due to its longtime links to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Wagner Group was first spotted in action in eastern Ukraine soon after a separatist conflict erupted there in April 2014, weeks after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, a report in AP said.
ALSO READ | North Korea in same trench as Russia, West’s tanks will burn in Ukraine: Kim Jong Un’s sister
The Wagner Group has taken an increasingly visible role in the war in Ukraine as regular Russian troops suffered heavy attrition. Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner group, said the group was spearheading the attack on the city of Bakhmut, a nearby Ukrainian stronghold that Russian forces have tried to win for months.
Prigozhin claimed full credit this month for capturing the Donetsk region salt-mining town of Soledar and accused the Russian Defense Ministry of trying to steal Wagner’s glory.
Western countries and United Nations experts have accused Wagner Group mercenaries of committing numerous human rights abuses throughout Africa, including in the Central African Republic, Libya and Mali.
RUSSIAN MISSILES POUND ON BAKHMUT
Meanwhile, Russian missiles continued to pound Bakhmut, killing four people. Ukraine has said that the Russian offensive on Bakhmut has not culminated and the situation along the front line has been becoming difficult.
Four civilians were killed, one in Bakhmut, and 17 wounded in Russian attacks on the region on Saturday, Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region said on the Telegram messaging app. Some of the heaviest fighting of the war has been taking place in recent weeks around the town of Bakhmut.
ALSO READ | Ukraine’s tragic week shows there’s no safe place in war
Ukraine has won promises of Western battle tanks and is seeking fighter jets to push back against Russian and pro-Moscow forces, which are slowly advancing along part of the front line.
On Saturday, Zelenskiy’s top aide said that expedited talks were under way between Ukraine and its allies about its requests for long-range missiles to prevent Russia from destroying Ukrainian cities.
(With agency inputs)