According to a statement made on national television by Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov, Wagner forces began to recruit residents to participate in the battles for Bakhmut.
Fedorov, who is in Ukrainian-controlled territory and reports based on sources in the city, said Russian troops are offering Melitopol residents 200,000 rubles ($2,650 according to Russia's official exchange rate) per month to fight for Russia in Bakhmut.
Ukrainian officials have previously reported that Russia is attempting to recruit residents of occupied regions to fight against Ukraine.
On March 13, the commander of Ukraine's Ground Forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, said that the situation around Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, remains "difficult" as the assault units of the Russian state-backed mercenary group Wagner continue attempts to break through the Ukrainian defense and advance to the central areas of the city.
On March 7, President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN that Russian forces would have an "open road" to seize other critical settlements in eastern Ukraine if they capture Bakhmut, defending Kyiv's decision to continue the city's defense despite Ukrainian troops suffering heavy losses.