The last few urban blocks of eastern Bakhmut that Wagner Group has claimed to capture are not tactically or operationally significant, the Institute for the Study of War said in their latest assessment.
"Their capture does not grant Russian forces operationally significant terrain to continue conducting offensive operations or any particularly strong position from which to defend against possible Ukrainian counterattacks," the experts said.
Wagner Group's financier Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed full control over the embattled city of Bakhmut for the most recent time on May 20 in a voice message posted to Telegram. “Today, at noon, Bahmut was completely taken,” he claimed. “We completely took the whole city, from house to house.”
The Kyiv Independent could not independently verify Prigozhin’s claim or the footage provided by his press service.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukraine’s Presidential Office, said that Prigozhin’s claim that his mercenaries had captured Bakhmut was "an attempt to distract from the overwhelming support for Ukraine" received during President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visits abroad.
The ISW said that Wagner forces are" unlikely to establish adequate defenses" or consolidate recent gains in Bakhmut sufficient to forestall Ukrainian counterattacks by May 25: the date when Wagner forces would supposedly establish defensive positions before transferring responsibility for the city to Russian conventional forces, according to Prigozhin.
"Prigozhin’s withdrawal announcement, whether Wagner withdraws from the city or not, indicates that Prigozhin does not intend to continue an offensive effort to push directly west of Bakhmut," the ISW concluded.