Wagner has led the Battle of Bakhmut since last summer.
The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary squad announced on Thursday that artillery bombardment in Bakhmut would be suspended to allow Ukrainian forces on the other side of the frontline to safely tour the city with visiting US journalists.
Wagner has led the Battle of Bakhmut since last summer, but Ukrainian forces have so far blocked Russian attempts to gain full control of the city. The private military company is in control of almost 90% of the city at the moment, with Ukrainian forces holding on to the Western outskirts of it.
Wagner’s founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in an audio message published by his press service: “A decision has been taken to suspend artillery fire so that American journalists can safely film Bakhmut and go home.”
In the same message, Prigozhin warned that the Ukrainian side not to try to bring in additional forces under the guise of the journalists’ visit. That said, Reuters was unable to independently confirm whether Wagner had ceased its artillery bombardment.
Prigozhin had previously chastised the defense ministry for failing to deploy much-needed ammunition shipments to his forces.
Soldiers advance into outskirts of Bakhmut
Earlier this week, a soldier from the Wagner Group private military company confirmed to Sputnik on April 24 that the group has advanced into the western outskirts of Bakhmut, also known as Artyomovsk.
“Three days ago, we advanced behind the railway to a nine-story building, we have cleared it and are now moving westward. There are nine-story buildings in front of us, the last ones that remain in the western part of Bakhmut,” the soldier stated, adding that the conflict was heavy as a result of lack of shelter for the troops.
The nine-story buildings have been occupied by Ukrainian forces for advantageous defense positions.