MOSCOW: Russian-backed separatist forces in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine said Monday they had seized a village near the key city of Bakhmut that Moscow has been trying to capture for months, reports AFP.
The village of Bakhmutske in the territory of the Donetsk People's Republic was liberated by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, on Monday, read a statement from separatist authorities on Telegram.
The village lies northeast of Bakhmut, a wine-making and salt-mining city that used to have a population of 70,000 people and is now an epicentre of fighting.
In a statement on social media, the Kremlin-linked mercenary group Wagner responded to the reports saying its forces had already liberated Bakhmutske last month.
The village is just outside the city of Soledar, also the scene of heavy fighting.
Separately, Wagner's founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said on social media that Soledar was being stormed exclusively by the group's units.
Observers of the conflict have pointed to competing ambitions of the Russian defence ministry, pro-Russian separatist forces that have held parts of Donbas since 2014 and Wagner, including the rising public profile of Prigozhin.
In September, Moscow claimed to have annexed Donetsk and three other Ukrainian regions following referendums not recognised by Kyiv and the West.