A Ukrainian rocket attack on a hotel in the east of the country killed members of the wagner groupa Russian paramilitary force whose leader has closed ties with President Vladimir V. Putin, Ukraine’s regional military authorities said.
The exiled head of Ukraine’s regional administration in Lugansk province, Serhiy Haidai, said in a post on the Telegram messaging app that “many” members of the Wagner force had been killed in Sunday’s attack in the town of Kadiivka. He posted a grainy photograph, taken at night, of a courtyard surrounded on three sides by a two-story building, which appeared to have been destroyed by an explosion. There was a crater in the center of the courtyard.
Mr. Haidai’s claim could not be independently verified and there was no immediate comment or confirmation from the Wagner Group. Telegram channels linked to the Wagner Group were silent, with no real mention of the strike.
The Russian state news agency Tass reported in a Telegram post that a HIMARS rocket had destroyed a hotel near the central market, but did not mention the Wagner Group. Using the old Soviet name for the town, Stakhanov, in the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, the report cited the mayor’s office as saying rescuers were clearing the rubble. He did not give details of the victims or say who was staying at the hotel.
There was no independent confirmation that Wagner’s forces were at the hotel, but such an attack would fit into a pattern of attacks by Ukrainian forces on critical points of military infrastructure or troop concentrations in territory occupied by Russian forces.
Over the weekend, Ukraine hit a church in the occupied city of Melitopol in southern Ukraine that Russian troops were using as a base.
In recent months, Ukraine has made use of longer-range weapons, such as HIMARS, a US-supplied system, which is capable of pinpointing targets behind Russian lines. Those attacks were part of an all-Ukrainian campaign that began in August and culminated in the recapture of the city of Kherson on the west bank of the Dnipro river. Recent attacks suggest that Ukraine may be following a similar approach in the hope of advancing on Russian positions east of the river.
Ukrainian forces will “continue to attack” Russian headquarters and logistical points over the coming weeks “in order to set the conditions for the decisive phase of the campaign,” retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges said on CNN on Monday.
the wagner group, led by businessman Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, has played a central role in Russia’s attempt to storm the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk province, which borders Lugansk. The fight, waged for months amid heavy losses on both sidesit has been one of the most brutal since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February.
Military experts say the capture of Bakhmut would have limited strategic value to Moscow but serve a political purpose given that Russia last captured a major Ukrainian city in the summer and has suffered a series of losses in the countryside since September. battle in the northeast. and south of the country.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky says Kiev’s goal is to retake all the territory seized by Russia since 2014. Its campaign in the south and east has slowed in recent weeks due to the onset of winter, though that has not altered the rhythm of the longest. ranged attacks.
The pace of ground attacks could pick up when the ground freezes, Ukraine’s defense minister Oleksii Reznikov said.
“We have seen rain and very difficult conditions for attacks from either side because the ground is wet and wheeled vehicles can barely get through,” he told reporters in the city of Odessa on Sunday. He added that “when the ground is firmer, I am convinced that we will continue our counterattacks.”
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