Russia’s defence ministry on Sunday said its forces had captured more territory in Bakhmut as they pursue their bid to seize full control of the city.

The battle for Bakhmut has turned into one of the bloodiest of the 14-month war, with the Eastern Ukrainian city almost completely destroyed by artillery shelling and urban combat.

Russia says capturing Bakhmut will allow it to mount further offensives into eastern Ukraine. If they succeed, Moscow’s forces are likely to face even larger urban battles for the nearby towns of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

Russia’s defence ministry on Sunday said troops secured two more blocks in Bakhmut’s western districts and that airborne units were providing reinforcements to the north and south.

Russia says it takes three districts in western part of Ukraine’s Bakhmut

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the private Wagner military force which is leading the assault on the city, has claimed his troops control 80% of Bakhmut. Kyiv has repeatedly denied claims that its forces are poised to withdraw.

Reuters was unable to verify battlefield reports.

Also on Sunday, the Russian-installed head of Ukraine’s southern Kherson region denied a report by a U.S. think tank that Ukrainian forces had taken up positions on the eastern bank of the Dnipro river.

“There is no enemy foothold on the left (eastern) bank of the Dnipro river … our military completely controls that territory,” Vladimir Saldo wrote on his Telegram channel.

Russian official claims 75pc of Bakhmut seized

“There may be cases of enemy sabotage groups making landings to take a selfie, before being … destroyed or pushed into the water by our fighters.”

Citing Russian military bloggers embedded with Moscow’s forces, the Institute for the Study of War said Ukraine had “established positions” on the eastern bank, though it was not clear “at what scale or with what intentions”.

A spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern command neither confirmed nor denied the report and called for “informational silence” to ensure operational security.

Russia claims Bakhmut surrounded, Kyiv says holding on

“I want everyone to understand that it is very difficult work to cross an obstacle like the Dnipro, for example – when the front line runs along such a wide, powerful river,” Natalia Humeniuk told Ukrainian television.

“It’s necessary to gather up some patience,” she added.

Russia withdrew its forces from the western bank of the river last year as part of a series of withdrawals that at the time signified a shift in the conflict’s momentum in Kyiv’s favour.

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