Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin admitted on April 6 that Ukrainian forces are not retreating from Bakhmut and said that a Russian offensive is "out of question" at the moment.
It contradicted his own earlier statement that Russian forces "had taken Bakhmut de jure."
"It should be clearly said that the enemy (Ukrainian forces) is not going anywhere (from Bakhmut). They have organized defense inside the city, first by the railway, then in the area of high-rise buildings in the western district of the city," Prigozhin said in a comment shared by his press service on Telegram.
According to Prigozhin, Russian forces are faced with three issues, namely a lack of "properly organized command," weak flanks, and not enough ammunition.
The Kremlin-controlled mercenary group has been assisting Russia’s military in trying to capture Ukraine’s eastern city of Bakhmut for months as Moscow tries to consolidate its grip over the entirety of Donetsk Oblast.
Prigozhin claimed on April 2 that his forces had captured the city administration building in Donetsk Oblast's Bakhmut, raising the Russian flag there.
The head of Russia's state-backed private mercenary group added that Bakhmut is "de jure taken" and the Ukrainian forces were "concentrated in the western area" of the city.
The Ukrainian military promptly denied his claims, saying that the building had long been destroyed by shelling.
"(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 explode. So he sets flags on buildings that have long since physically ceased to exist," Ukrainian Armed Forces spokesperson Serhiy Cherevatyi said while speaking on national television on April 4.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its assessment on March 16 that the Wagner Group's offensive on Bakhmut "appears to be nearing culmination."
“Since May last year, between 20,000-30,000 Wagner and regular Russian forces have been killed and wounded in the area around Bakhmut alone – a huge loss of human life for a total territorial advance of approximately just 25 kilometers,” U.K. military advisor Ian Stubbs noted on March 15.