A Ukrainian strike hit a Russian base in eastern Ukraine that housed mercenaries from a private military group with close ties to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Ukrainian officials have claimed.
Reports of a strike in the Luhansk region on a base for the organization, the Wagner Group, began to emerge on Sunday night when a channel on Telegram that is widely associated with the group posted pictures that purported to show the site of the strike. The New York Times has independently verified that the images are from a building in the Russian-occupied town of Popasna that a Russian journalist had earlier identified as a Wagner base.
Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs, shared similar images on Twitter and said that Ukraine had used the American-supplied HIMARS weapon system to hit the base.
Wagner first emerged in 2014, during Russia’s annexation of Crimea. U.N. investigators and rights groups say Wagner troops, which have been seen in Syria, Libya and the Central African Republic, have targeted civilians, conducted mass executions and looted private property in conflict zones. Wagner’s shadowy existence allows Russia to downplay its battlefield casualties and distance itself from atrocities committed by Wagner fighters, according to those who have studied the group.
On Monday morning, Serhiy Haidai, the head of the Ukrainian regional military administration in Luhansk, asserted that the Wagner base in Popasna had been “destroyed.”
“The Armed Forces of Ukraine again successfully struck the enemy’s headquarters,” Mr. Haidai wrote in a Facebook post, adding that the number of casualties was not yet known.
There was no immediate comment from the authorities in Russia or from Yevgeny Prigozhin, the secretive businessman and Putin ally widely associated with the private security company.
Reports of the strike infuriated many Russian military bloggers, who criticized an earlier social media post by one of their own. That post, they said, had exposed the headquarters’ location. The post has since been deleted.
“Congratulations to all decent war reporters, it will be even harder for us to work now,” Dmitri Steshin, a reporter for Komsomolskaya Pravda, a popular pro-Kremlin tabloid, wrote on Telegram. “And it will be easier for those who criticized us.”
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