The founder of Russia’s most prominent mercenary organization said Saturday that he wants his troops and regular Russian army forces to seize Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. Bakhmut is one of the “underground” cities capable of holding tanks and troops.
Some Western military experts have found it difficult to believe that Russia’s five-month-long effort to seize Bakhmut and its heavy losses to Russia, as well as the fact that Ukraine built defense lines to protect itself from being retaken by Russia, has meant that any Russian victory in Bakhmut, should it ever happen, will be considered pyrrhic.
Yevgeny Prizhin, the founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary organization, explained in detail why his capture was so important on Saturday.
The Bakhmut and Soledar mines are the cherry on top. They form a network of underground cities. This can hold large groups of people from 80 to 100 meters below the surface. Tanks and infantry fighting vehicles are also able to move freely.
Prigozhin would see his political capital increase in Moscow if Bakhmut falls to Russia, given Wagner’s involvement in fighting there. He stated that underground storage had held weapons stockpiles since World War One.
He was referring to the salt mines, as well as other nearby mines that have more than 100 miles of underground tunnels. There is also a large underground space that hosts concerts and football matches.
On Thursday, a White House official stated that Washington thought Prigozhin was trying to seize control of the salt- and gypsum mining areas in the region for commercial purposes. Their alleged military subterranean use was not mentioned.
Prigozhin is sanctioned by the West. He cited additional benefits of Bakhmut and called it “a serious logistic center” that has unique defense fortifications.
As shellfire echoed around Bakhmut’s deserted streets on Saturday, despite Kyiv’s self-declared Russian ceasefire marking Orthodox Christmas (which he rejected as a ploy), he made his remarks on Telegram’s channel of his press service.
Bakhmut, which Russia calls Artyomovsk, is the focus of the most intense fighting in Ukraine, and Prigozhin made his comments as another Telegram channel associated with Wagner claimed Russia had captured a strategically-important settlement on Bakhmut’s outskirts.
On Saturday, the Russian defense ministry reported on fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine.
A spokesman for the Ukrainian defense ministry said Soledar was under Ukrainian control, despite Russian attacks.