Ukrainian Armed Forces spokesperson Serhiy Cherevatyi downplayed Wagner mercenaries' claim of allegedly raising the Russian flag over Bakhmut city hall, noting that it was already destroyed during fighting long ago.
"(Wagner Group founder Yevgeny) Prigozhin probably goes to Bakhmut because it is not safe for him in St. Petersburg right now. There, you see, restaurants are exploding... So he sets flags on buildings that have long since physically ceased to exist," Cherevatyi said while speaking on national television on April 4.
Cherevatyi's comment was in reference to the assassination of high-profile Russian propagandist Vladlen Tatarsky on April 2 in a cafe that reportedly once belonged to Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Prigozhin claimed on April 2 that Wagner had "legally taken" Bakhmut and that Wagner mercenaries had "successfully" raised the Russian flag over Bakhmut city hall.
Ukrainian officials denied the claims that Bakhmut had fallen, with President's Office Head Andriy Yermak urging the public to "calmly react to fakes inventing a victory, which does not exist in reality."
The battle for Bakhmut, a once prosperous industrial city in Donetsk Oblast, has been raging for the past eight months. Both Ukrainian and Russian forces have incurred heavy losses, but the city remains in Ukrainian control.