On Sunday, Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of Russia’s Chechen Republic, declared his troops had gained control of most of the eastern Ukrainian city of Popasna, but Ukrainian officials stated a struggle for the town in the country’s east is still underway.
According to a report by Reuters, Russian forces started a fresh onslaught throughout much of Ukraine’s eastern flank in mid-April, with some of the most severe strikes and shelling taking place recently in the Luhansk area around Popasna.
“Fighters of the Chechen special forces … have taken most of Popasna under control,” Kadyrov, who has often described himself as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “foot soldier”, wrote in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
“The main streets and central districts of the town have been completely cleared.”
Ukraine has not yet responded, but Oleksiy Arestovych, an advisor to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, claimed late Saturday that a fierce battle for the town is still going on.
“A battle for Popasna is ongoing,” Arestovych said in a video on social media.
“Russian propagandists have joyfully reported that they have already taken it, but this is not quite how it is. This is their 117th ‘capture of Popasna’ claim only this week.”
The governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Gaidai, claimed earlier on Saturday that Ukrainian forces were still in control of the area. “The situation is very difficult, but under control,” Gaidai said in a Telegram video post.
He also stated that Chechen forces were looting and filming rather than fighting.
Kadyrov has repeatedly posted stories and videos of Chechen soldiers supposedly engaged in actions in Ukraine on Telegram, but there has been no confirmation of how many have been sent or whether they have fought.