Wagner boss Prigozhin explains the reason for the intensive fight for Bakhmut

Bitter fighting has been going on in Bachmut for months. The head of the Wagner mercenaries active there has now explained why he wants to take the city.

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The founder of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, justified the bitter push to capture the small Ukrainian town of Bakhmut with huge tunnel systems there in which troops and tanks could find shelter.

FILE - Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin is shown prior to a meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, July 4, 2017. The White  ...

Wagner-Boss Jewgeni Prigoschin.Bild: keystone

“The icing on the cake is the Soledar and Bakhmut mining system, which is actually a network of underground cities,” Prigozhin explained via Telegram on Saturday. “It can not only accommodate a large group of people at a depth of 80 to 100 meters, but tanks and armored personnel carriers can also move in it,” the Russian entrepreneur continues.

Ukrainian soldiers watch drone feeds from an underground command center in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. The Ukrainian government minister in charge of technology says his c ...

Ukrainian troops in an underground command room.Bild: keystone

Weapons have been stored in these tunnels since World War I. Bachmut is an important logistics center with unique defensive positions. However, the question arises as to what exactly Prigozhin intends to do with the tunnels. The reference to the defenses could mean that he expects a long battle for the city and the region and wants to protect his troops in Bakhmut.

The Russian army and the Wagner group have been trying to take Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine for five months. Some Western military experts have expressed puzzlement given the heavy Russian casualties and the fact that a Russian victory could see Ukrainian forces retreat to nearby new defensive positions.

So it would be a Pyrrhic victory. US sources said on Thursday that Prigozhin wanted to take control of the region’s salt and gypsum mines for commercial reasons. But that would only be possible once Russia has actual control over the region. In addition, there was considerable destruction in Bakhmut as a result of the attacks. It is unclear whether the mining facilities were also affected.

epaselect epa10386755 A rescuer tries to put out a fire of a private building after a Russian shelling in the Ivanivka village near Bakhmut of the Donetsk area, Ukraine, 02 January 2023 amid the Russi ...

Fire following a Russian missile attack in Bakhmut last November.Bild: keystone

Earlier, the retired US Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, formerly stationed in Europe as the commanding US general, had expressed a different assumption about Russian Bakhmut persistence in an interview with «Newsweek»: Prigozhin’s credibility largely depends on it. If his fighters were forced to retreat from Bakhmut, it would be a “blow” to Prigozhin’s prestige and would “psychologically” damage the Russians as a whole.

Prigozchin has recently appeared more self-confident and offensive. The 61-year-old comments on the war almost every day and also expresses clear criticism of Russian warfare. Experts also see his growing influence as a sign of Putin’s loss of control.

More on the war in Ukraine:

Bakhmut is called Artjomowsk by the Russian side. It is known that a tunnel system of mines extends over more than 160 kilometers in the region. In times of peace, concerts and football matches were held in a large underground hall. (reuters)

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