Putin says battle for Bakhmut is over, thanks Wagner mercenaries and Russian army

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting in Pyatigorsk

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday congratulated the Wagner mercenary force and the Russian army for what he called the "liberation" of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, which Russia calls by its Soviet-era name of Artyomovsk.

In a statement published on the Kremlin website, Putin said that the battle - the longest and bloodiest of the 15-month war - had ended in a Russian victory, and that all those who had excelled in it on Moscow's side would be given state awards.

"The Head of State congratulated Wagner's assault groups, as well as all members of the units of the Russian Armed Forces who provided them with the necessary support and cover on their flanks, on the completion of the operation to liberate Artyomovsk (Bakhmut)," the statement said.

"All those who distinguished themselves will be presented with state awards," it said.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Andrew Osborn)