Prigozhin says Wagner fighters capture village north of Ukraine's Bakhmut

Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, from Wagner, released a clip stating that Russian forced had taken over the village of Yahidne in Ukraine.

 Wagner private military group centre opens in St Petersburg (photo credit: REUTERS)
Wagner private military group centre opens in St Petersburg
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said forces of his Wagner group had captured the village of Yahidne, just north of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine on Saturday.

But Ukrainian military reports issued a day after the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, suggested that villages near the key town remained under Kyiv's control.

Reuters could not independently confirm the claim, which Prigozhin made in a short audio message.

The battle

"At 1900 on 25th February, storm units of the Wagner private military company secured complete control of the locality of Yagodnoye (Yahidne) to the north of Bakhmut," Prigozhin said in the clip.

A day earlier, he said Wagner had taken control of Berkhivka, another village on the outskirts of Bakhmut.

The months-long struggle for Bakhmut has seen some of the bloodiest attritional fighting of Russia's year-old invasion of Ukraine. Wagner units have suffered heavy losses, prompting Prigozhin to complain bitterly that the Russian defense establishment has failed to properly acknowledge their contribution.

This week he even accused the army top brass of treason for failing to supply his men with sufficient ammunition, though he later said the situation had been remedied.

On Thursday, Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov acknowledged in a YouTube presentation that Berkhivka had come under Russian control.

The latest general staff report said Russian forces had made unsuccessful advances on villages around Bakhmut, including Berkhivka.

There was no mention in the report of Yahidne. But it said 18 localities in the area had been shelled by Russian forces, including villages on Bakhmut's southern and western approaches.