Ukraine disputed on Sunday that Bakhmut had lost to Russian troops in the war’s longest fight, instead advancing around the outskirts, making it “very difficult” for Russian troops to remain in the shattered city.
President Volodymyr Zelensky stated it would be a pyrrhic victory for Moscow a day after President Vladimir Putin hailed Russian forces and private mercenary outfit Wagner who claimed to have conquered the city in eastern Ukraine.
“You have to understand there is nothing” there in Bakhmut, he said, sat next to US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan. “For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts.”
Later, Zelensky’s spokesman stressed that the Ukrainian president was not confirming the Russian army’ capture of Bakhmut.
“The president denied the capture of Bakhmut,” spokesman Sergiy Nykyforov said on Facebook.
Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar then said Ukrainian troops “have semi-encircled the city”.
“The advance of our troops in the suburbs on the flanks, which is still ongoing, makes it very difficult for the enemy to be in Bakhmut.”
She said Ukrainian troops were still in control of a residential area and some industrial facilities.
The loss of Bakhmut would be enormously significant for the Ukrainians, who had clung on for months despite US advice to focus elsewhere.
However, some observers believe Ukraine has inflicted huge losses on Russia in Bakhmut and forced it to commit significant resources, potentially weakening its defenses in other areas of the front line.