Ukraine war: Russia's Wagner Group claims full control of eastern Bakhmut districtsComments
The owner of Russia's Wagner Group military contractor claimed that Russian troops have extended their gains in the Ukrainian stronghold of Bakhmut, on Wednesday.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose troops have spearheaded the fight in Bakhmut, said they have taken full control of all districts east of the Bakhmutka River that crosses the city. The city's center lies west of the river.
But it remains unclear how long the grinding fight that has exacted heavy losses might continue.
Neither Russian nor Ukrainian officials commented on Prigozhin's claim.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank closely monitoring the fighting, said Russian forces were likely in control in the area following a Ukrainian withdrawal.
Russian troops have enveloped the city from three sides, leaving only a narrow corridor leading west. The only highway west has been targeted by Russian artillery fire, forcing Ukrainian forces defending the city to rely increasingly on country roads, which are hard to use before the muddy ground dries.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed Monday not to retreat from Bakhmut after chairing a meeting with his top generals.
The battle for the city the Ukrainians have dubbed "fortress Bakhmut" has become emblematic of the way each side has tried to wear down the other.
Russian forces must go through Bakhmut in order to push deeper into the areas in Donetsk province they don't yet control, though Western officials say that capturing the city won't change the course of the war.
Bakhmut has been the focus of much of the fighting in recent months, as each side hopes it can inflict severe damage on other there -- while buying time to prepare offensives elsewhere.
It is not clear which has paid a higher price in the battle, which has lasted six months and reduced the city with a pre-war population of more than 70,000 to a smouldering wasteland.