The leader of the Russian mercenary group Wagner said his forces were close to the center of the frontline town of Bakhmut.
In a video posted on the Telegram messaging app on Saturday, Yevgeny Prigozhin is seen standing on the roof of a high-rise building in what he claims to be Bakhmut.
“It’s the city administration building, it’s the center of the city,” Prigozhin said in the video, pointing to a building in the distance.
“It’s one kilometer and 200 meters away,” said Prigozhin, who was wearing full military gear.
Al Jazeera was unable to verify where the footage was taken.
Speaking as artillery exploded in the background, Prigozhin said the most important thing now was to get more ammunition from the army and “move forward”. He said his forces needed 10,000 tons of ammunition every month for the battle.
Wagner led offensives against towns in eastern Ukraine, including Bakhmut, in what became the longest and bloodiest fight of Russia’s year-long assault. Both sides suffered heavy casualties around Bakhmut.
Prigozhin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, is embroiled in a power struggle with the Defense Ministry.
He repeatedly claimed battlefield victories in front of the Russian military, criticized senior Russian brass, and accused the military of not sharing ammunition with his motley forces.
In the video released on Saturday, he said he was ready to apologize to senior Russian commanders, but at the same time appeared to be mocking Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
He said they were “outstanding military commanders” and added that top Russian military leaders, including Georgy Zhukov and Alexander Suvorov, “could have learned” from them.
“I absolutely – totally – support all their initiatives,” Prigozhin added.
“Necessary to save time”
Earlier this week, Wagner said his fighters had captured the eastern part of Bakhmut.
Some military experts have questioned the meaning of Ukraine’s continued defense of the ravaged city, but Kiev officials say the fall of Bakhmut could lead to further Russian advances to the east.
Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Oleksandr Syrsky said on Saturday that the fight for Bakhmut helps buy time to prepare for a future counteroffensive.
“The real heroes now are the defenders who hold the Eastern Front on their shoulders and inflict the heaviest casualties possible, sparing neither themselves nor the enemy,” Syrsky said in a statement.
“We must gain time to build up reserves and launch a counter-offensive, which is not far off.”
British military intelligence said on Saturday that the Bakhmutka River in central Bakmut now marks the front line.
“Ukrainian forces are holding the west of the city and have demolished key bridges over the river, which flows…north to south through a strip of open ground 200 to 800 meters wide,” the UK ministry said. Defense in an update.
“This area has become a killing zone, likely making it very difficult for Wagner’s forces attempting to continue their frontal assault to the west.”
Elsewhere in Ukraine, three civilians were killed in the Russian shelling of Kherson, and another person was killed in the eastern region of Donetsk, regional officials said.
Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson regional military administration, said three people, including an elderly woman, were also injured in the artillery shelling of the city.
“Today the Russian occupiers struck Kherson again. On a road in Mykolayivsky, near a store, shrapnel killed three people,” Prokudin told Ukrainian TV, adding that a car , several buses and commercial property had been damaged.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, regional governor of Donetsk, said one person was killed and at least three civilians injured in the town of Kostyantynivka following multiple Russian shelling during the day.
The Donetsk region has seen some of the heaviest fighting since Russia sent troops to Ukraine on February 24 last year.