Ukraine has continued to deny claims from the head of Wagner that Russian forces have taken control of Bakhmut “in a legal sense,” claiming they are still “very far” from achieving anything remotely like it.
Remind me, what happened yesterday?
On Monday morning, Russia’s Wagner paramilitary group claimed it had captured the city hall in the eastern town of Bakhmut, giving it “legal” control over the city.
“This is the Wagner private military company, these are the guys who took Bakhmut. In a legal sense, it’s ours,” Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a post on Telegram.
What has Ukraine said?
On Monday and in Prigozhin’s video, Ukrainian military leaders said Russian forces had tried to take control of the town, but their troops had “repelled more than 20 enemy attacks.”
A spokesperson for Ukraine’s eastern military command later elaborated, saying: “They raised the flag over some kind of toilet.
“They attached it to the side of who knows what, hung their rag and said they had captured the city. Well good, let them think they've taken it,” the official, Serhiy Cherevaty, told Reuters.
“There are battles around the building of (Bakhmut’s) city council, they haven’t captured anything in a legal sense. Bakhmut is Ukrainian, and they have not captured anything and are very far from doing that, to put it mildly.”
Did the Kremlin confirm Prigozhin’s claims?
They did not. The Russian defense ministry did not report any advances by its forces in a daily briefing on the offensive later on Monday.
Prigozhin – an ally of President Vladimir Putin – has for months been involved in a power struggle with the defense ministry, claiming battlefield victories ahead of Russia’s army and accusing the military of not sharing ammunition with his forces.
Ukraine has blamed Russia’s domestic infighting for the blast in a Saint Petersburg cafe that on Sunday wounded more than 30 people and killed Vladlen Tatarsky (real name Maxim Fomin), a high-profile supporter of Moscow’s assault on Ukraine.
Prigozhin has said the venue used to belong to him, adding that he “gave the cafe to the patriotic movement Cyber Front Z and they organized various seminars there.”
Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak, suggested the attack was an act of domestic terrorism carried out by Russians opposed to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, adding it was “only a matter of time…” like the “breakthrough of a ripe abscess.” He added: “It begins in RF... Spiders are eating each other in a jar.”
It begins in RF... Spiders are eating each other in a jar. Question of when domestic terrorism would become an instrument of internal political fight was a matter of time, as breakthrough of ripe abscess. Irreversible processes and Troubles 2.0. await RF. While we will watch.— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) April 2, 2023
In its daily assessment on Sunday, the Institute for the Study of War said the “assassination at Prigozhin’s bar is likely part of a larger pattern of escalating Russian internal conflicts involving Prigozhin and Wagner.”
It added: “Fomin had attended another event earlier in the day without incident, so it appears that the attack was deliberately staged in a space owned by Prigozhin.
“Fomin’s assassination may have been intended as a warning to Prigozhin, who has been increasingly questioning core Kremlin talking points about the war in Ukraine and even obliquely signaling an interest in the Russian presidency, whether in competition with Putin or as his successor.”
Who was behind the attack?
Russia’s Investigative Committee and the National Anti-terrorism Committee both said pro-Navalny activists were behind the latest attack.
The Investigative Committee released a video of the arrest of 26-year-old Darya Trepova, who it said “holds opposition views and is a supporter of the Anti-Corruption Foundation,” referring to Navalny’s banned organization.
Political observers said the bombing attack could be used to justify a further crackdown on critics of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine. Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said the attack could also be used to accuse the jailed opposition politician of new crimes.
“Alexei will soon be on trial for extremism,” Yarmysh wrote, adding that he faced 35 years in prison.
"The Kremlin thought: ‘It’s great to be able to add the terrorism charge.’” The Kremlin condemned the “terrorist attack” and said “there is evidence... that the Ukrainian special services may be related to its organization.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told journalists he was too busy focusing on his own country to pay attention to the attack in Saint Petersburg.
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