Ukraine hits Russian Wagner mercenary HQ in east

Ukrainian artillery has struck a headquarters (HQ) of Russia’s shadowy Wagner paramilitary group of mercenaries in eastern Ukraine, reports say.

The attack in Popasna was reported by Serhiy Hayday, Ukrainian governor of Luhansk region, and several pro-Kremlin war reporters.

The number of casualties is not clear and details remain sketchy. Photos said to show the damage were posted on the Telegram messaging service.

Wagner has been linked to war crimes.

The group was deployed to Crimea and Ukraine’s Donbas region in 2014when Kremlin-backed forces ousted Ukrainian troops from areas they later declared to be part of Russia.

Wagner units have also been sent to Syria, Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic.

The Kremlin does not acknowledge Wagner’s existence, but Western intelligence links the group to Yevgeny Prigozhin – nicknamed “Putin’s chef” because his catering business has long helped President Vladimir Putin and the armed forces.

Mr Prigozhin, like many other Russian officials, was under Western sanctions.

Wagner is known as a PMC – private military company. But they are state-sponsored mercenaries who act in the Kremlin’s interests, Western experts say. They have been accused of repeated war crimes and human rights abuses.

On Telegram, Governor Hayday wrote that Ukrainian forces “hit an enemy HQ whose whereabouts were established thanks to a Russian journalist”.

“This time the successful strike destroyed the Wagner PMC HQ in Popasna yesterday,” he said. He added that “the number of dead is being clarified”.

The Ukrainian daily, Ukrainska Pravda, reports that a pro-Kremlin Russian journalist, Sergei Sreda, revealed the Wagner HQ in a Telegram post on August 8. He posted photos of his visit to the HQ and a sign in one of them identified its address as Mironovskaya 12, Popasna.

The post was later removed, but copies are circulating on social media.

Popasna lies just south of Severodonetsk in Luhansk region, which Russian forces now entirely control, following months of bitter fighting and huge destruction.

Another pro-Kremlin war reporter, called Kotenok, wrote on Telegram: “A strike was carried out on one of the Wagner PMC locations in Popasna. -BBC

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