The head of the Russian private company Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in the early hours of the morning that he considers it unlikely that Bakhmut, the – almost completely destroyed – city in eastern Ukraine that has become one of its focal points, will be captured in the next few days war from the summer of 2022.

“It is unlikely that Bakhmut will be fully captured tomorrow or the day after tomorrow,” Mr Prigozhin said via Telegram overnight Thursday into Friday, referring to heavy fighting in the southwestern districts of the city.

“Bahmut has not yet been captured. There is a district called ‘Samaliot’. This is an impregnable fortress (…) The hardest battles are being fought there at the moment,” said the head of Wagner. “So I have something important to ask: silence is golden. Let us finish the job,” he added.

Ukraine’s military leadership said on Tuesday that its forces had recaptured 20 square kilometers of the Bakhmut district, but acknowledged that Russian forces were still advancing into the city itself, much of which is in ruins after months of fighting.

The battle for this city of Donbass is marked as the bloodiest and longest since the Russian army invaded the territory of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

Western observers and officials question the strategic importance of the capture of Bakhmut for Russia. But in addition to giving Moscow the ability to tout a victory in the war, other analysts point out that it would allow Russian troops to move into other cities and complete the takeover of all of Donbas.

Wagner’s mercenaries are backed by Russian regular army units, but Mr Prigozhin often accuses the Russian military hierarchy of not providing his men with sufficient ammunition to take the city and has recently complained that army units have retreated, opening up opportunities for the Ukrainian army to flank its forces.