According to retired US Army General Mark Hertling, Russian forces’ victory over the war-torn Ukrainian city of Bakhmut means Moscow is effectively “controlling the rubble”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Russia had won the battle to “liberate” Bakhmut on Saturday after Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Russian mercenary organization Wagner Group, said Russia-coalition forces had “completely recaptured” the town. “Took

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky disputed the claim on Sunday, while a Ukrainian Armed Forces spokesman said on Monday that several buildings in Bakhmut had been retaken. newsweek Ukraine or Russia’s claims about the city have not been independently verified.

General Hertling, former commanding general of US Forces Europe and Seventh Army, said during a CNN Interview on Monday that Ukrainian forces had pulled out of Bakhmut but were now in a “much more” position to drive Russia out of the “high ground” of surrounding settlements.

bakhmut ruble retired general russia ukraine war
The wreckage of a vehicle is pictured near the bombed-out city of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on April 13, 2023. Retired US Army General Mark Hertling said Russia was “basically controlling the wreckage” two days after Moscow claimed Russia was now in control. City.
Victor Fridshon/Global Images Ukraine

Hertling argued that the areas Russia was controlling were “of no strategic value”, pointing out that Bakhmut had been largely destroyed after months of brutal fighting. He also predicted that Ukrainian forces would soon encircle the Russian-coalition forces.

“Russia is basically commandeering the wreckage right now,” Hertling told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “A city they’ve destroyed, they’re now in the middle of it, has no strategic value for now.”

“Ukrainian forces that have withdrawn may now have a much greater capability than before to launch an operation against that city,” he said. “Soon we may see Ukrainian forces encircling Wagner forces in the town of Bakhmut, or whatever is left of it.”

newsweek The Russian Defense Ministry has been reached via email for comment.

In a tweet on Sunday, Hertling predicted that Wagner’s forces would experience a “disaster” within days of announcing victory over Bakhmut, while pointing out that mercenary groups attempted to take the city this year. Time had taken a heavy toll.

“As many of us have said many times, Prigozhin is not a professional soldier and neither are his soldiers,” he Tweeted, “‘Congratulations, Yevgeny, you have planted Wagner’s flag in the center of the city. And … you are surrounded.’ Disaster for Wagner over the last 5 months…and next week.”

On Monday, Prigozhin claimed that Wagner’s army would begin pulling out of Bakhmut on Thursday and complete the withdrawal by June 1. According to Reuters.

Zelensky’s adviser Alexander Rodnyansky, appearing on the same CNN broadcast as Hartling on Monday, dismissed Prigozhin’s claim of an imminent return.

“We obviously can’t believe a word they’re saying,” Rodnyansky said. “This is a side that has been consistently lying before the attack, during the attack. So, we take it with a grain of salt.”

US-based think tank The Institute for the Study of War said in a report published on Sunday that it was “unlikely” that the Wagner Group would continue to fight Bakhmut beyond “its current status”.

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