The owner of the Russian Wagner Group private military contractor actively involved in the fighting in Ukraine has predicted that the war could drag on for years. Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a video interview released late Friday that it could take 18 months to two years for Russia to fully secure control of Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland of Donbas. He added that the war could go on for three years if Moscow decides to capture broader territories east of the Dnieper River, the AP reports. The statement from Prigozhin, a millionaire who has close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, marked a recognition of the difficulties that the Kremlin has faced in the campaign, which it initially expected to wrap up in weeks after Russian troops invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Russia suffered a series of humiliating setbacks in the fall when the Ukrainian military launched successful counteroffensives to reclaim broad swaths of territory in the east and the south. The Kremlin has avoided making forecasts on how long the fighting could continue, saying that what it called the "special military operation" will continue until its goals are fulfilled. The Russian forces have focused on Ukraine's Luhansk and Donetsk provinces that make up the Donbas region where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.
Ukrainian and Western officials have warned that Russia could launch a new broad offensive to try to turn the tide of the conflict as the war approaches the one-year mark. But Ukraine's military intelligence spokesman, Andriy Chernyak, told Kyiv Post that "Russian command does not have enough resources for large-scale offensive actions." He added that "the main goal of Russian troops remains to achieve at least some tactical success in eastern Ukraine." Prigozhin said that the Wagner Group mercenaries were continuing fierce battles for control of the Ukrainian stronghold of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region. He acknowledged that the Ukrainian troops were mounting fierce resistance.
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