Ukraine claims advance in Bakhmut as Russian strike 'kills two'
The Ukrainian army said Saturday it was "advancing" around Bakhmut, the epicentre of fighting with Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.
"The defensive operation towards Bakhmut is continuing," the commander of Ukrainian ground troops, Oleksander Syrsky, said on Telegram. "Our soldiers are advancing in some areas of the frontline, and the enemy is losing equipment and troops."
Ukraine also claims that two people have been killed in a Russian strike in the town of Kostiantynivka, some 25km away from the city, with ten more injured, among them two teenagers.
On Friday, Ukraine said it had advanced two kilometres around Bakhmut, which Moscow denied.
Moscow claims to be still encroaching into the city, which is already mostly under its control. The Russian defence ministry did not comment on the latest Ukrainian claims, but said in a statement that "assault units have liberated a district in the northwestern part of the city of Artiomovsk", the Russian name for Bakhmut.
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The battle for Bakhmut is the bloodiest and longest since the Russian invasion began on 24 February 2022. Observers doubt that Russia has any strategic interest in conquering the city entirely, but taking full control would allow Moscow to claim at least one victory after more than a year of humiliating setbacks.
For its part, Kyiv claims to want to tire the Russian army by drawing as many of its stretched and depleted resources as possible into this area of the Donbas before launching a counter-offensive to recapture the occupied territories in the east and south of the country.
Preparations for the push "are nearing completion", according to Ukrainian officials.
Meanwhile, Moscow accused Kyiv of using British long-range Storm Shadow missiles to target "civilian targets" in the Russian-controlled eastern region of Luhansk on Saturday. Russia reported "injuries, including six children" in the strike.