The chief of the Wagner mercenary group has said the village of Berkhivka in eastern Ukraine is “entirely under our control.”

 The settlement is just to the north of the city of Bakhmut, the scene of fierce fighting between the two sides for months. The embattled city has turned into a key political and symbolic prize and the fight for it is now the longest-running battle of the war.

 Yevgeny Prigozhin’s unverified claim on Friday morning comes just in time for the anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, with the Kremlin desperate for positive news to announce one year after the launch of a “special military operation” which it expected would end in success in a matter of days.

 Moscow has been fighting to take Bakhmut for months, with the battle exposing tensions between the Wagner paramilitary group and Russia's army, though the Kremlin denies any rift.

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 Prigozhin said on Thursday his fighters in Ukraine were getting ammunition after he accused Russia’s top brass of withholding supplies, AFP reports.

 “Today at 6:00 am, it was announced that the shipment of ammunition was starting,” Prigozhin said in a statement shared by his press service, adding that the “main papers have already been signed.”

 One day earlier he made an unprecedented call on Russians to pressure the country’s regular army to share ammunition with his fighters, in an ongoing stand-off with military leaders.

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 Although capturing Bakhmut would be a major win for Moscow, analysts say its capture would be mainly symbolic as the city holds little strategic value.

 

 

 

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