The town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine has become a focal point of contention as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy disputes Russian claims of complete occupation. While Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group asserts control over Bakhmut, Ukrainian forces led by Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi remain defiant. As tensions escalate, both sides present differing narratives, further complicating the situation.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, attending the Group of Seven summit in Japan, vehemently denied Russian occupation of Bakhmut. He dismissed the claims made by Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, asserting that Ukrainian forces retain control of parts of the town in the Donetsk region. Despite pressure, Zelenskyy remains resolute in his stance, refusing to concede defeat and emphasizing Ukraine’s determination to protect its territory.
While Prigozhin minimized the role of the regular Russian army in capturing Bakhmut, Ukrainian Colonel-General Syrskyi asserted that his forces were not ready to surrender and still maintained control in parts of the town. The conflicting narratives from both sides contribute to the heightened tensions and uncertainty surrounding the situation. The complex dynamics make it difficult to ascertain the true state of affairs and raise concerns about the potential for further escalation.
In the neighboring Belgorod region of Russia, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov announced an ongoing “counter-terrorism operation” near the Ukrainian border. The defense ministry and law enforcement agencies are working together to secure the area. Gladkov urged residents of the Graivoron district, where cross-border attacks have occurred, to remain temporarily displaced until the situation is deemed safe for their return. The incidents have resulted in injuries, property damage, and increased scrutiny between the two nations.
In response to the situation in Belgorod, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak reiterated that Ukraine had no involvement in the armed operation. He dismissed any responsibility, stating that Ukraine is closely monitoring events but is not associated with the incursion. Podolyak echoed Ukrainian military intelligence’s assertion that the incursion was the work of Russian partisans and emphasized that Ukraine’s military operates solely within its own territory.
The conflicting claims over control of Bakhmut and the escalating tensions in the region raise concerns about the potential for further hostilities. As both sides maintain their positions, the situation remains volatile, with the true state of affairs in Bakhmut still uncertain. The international community has urged both sides to exercise restraint and work towards a peaceful resolution. The United Nations Security Council has also called on the parties involved to engage in dialogue and find a way forward that respects the rights of all people living in Bakhmut, as well as upholds international law.