The leader of the Russian mercenary group Wagner claimed on Sunday that forces under his control had taken a village a few kilometers from the key city of Bakhmut, which Moscow has been trying to capture for months.
"Today, Wagner's assault units took the town of Krasna Hora," Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a statement on Sunday.
The Ukrainian authorities have not yet commented on these allegations. AFP was unable to independently confirm the claims.
Experts have debated the strategic importance of Bakhmut, but the city has turned into a key political and symbolic prize as the battle has dragged on.
Rivalries between the paramilitary Wagner group and the Russian army have emerged during the fight for Bakhmut — though the Kremlin denies any rift.
On Jan. 11, Prigozhin claimed his fighters had taken control of the city of Soledar, a salt-mining town with a pre-war population of around 10,000 near Bakhmut.
The Russian Defense Ministry only confirmed that Moscow's forces were in control of the town two days later.
"After the capture of Soledar and the mass hype saying that there were other [soldiers] besides Wagner in Soledar, of course, the guys were very frustrated," Prigozhin said Sunday.
"Within a 50 kilometers radius, more or less, only Wagner fighters remain, and they will take Bakhmut," he added.