Russia's Prigozhin says Bakhmut will not fall in next two days

FILE PHOTO: Founder of Wagner private mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin makes a statement in an undisclosed location

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Friday that the city of Bakhmut was unlikely to fall to his mercenary forces in the next two days as fighting raged around Ukrainian soldiers holed up in a makeshift "fortress" in the south of the city.

The Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, known in Russia by its Soviet-era name of Artyomovsk, is in ruins after months of intense fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces who call it the "meat grinder".

"Bakhmut has still not been taken," Prigozhin said in a voice message posted on Telegram. "Bakhmut is unlikely to be taken either tomorrow or the day after tomorrow."

"There is a quarter known as the 'Airplane' - it is like an impregnable fortress from a bed of multi-storey buildings in the southwest of Bakhmut, where incredibly heavy battles are going on."

Russia has been trying to capture Bakhmut since last summer in the longest and bloodiest battle of the war, but Ukrainian defenders have held out. If Russia took the city, it would provide a stepping stone to advance on two bigger cities it has long coveted in the Donetsk region: Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)