Ukraine said its troops were still advancing on the flanks of the devastated town of Bakhmut, but the “intensity” of their movement had diminished.
On Saturday, Russia said it had completely taken the city, but Ukrainian officials have since said Kiev forces
still controls a small part.
On Monday, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar reiterated that Ukraine has a small foothold inside the city, which has seen heavy fighting.
“Thanks to our movement on the flanks – north and south – we manage to destroy the enemy,” she said in televised comments.
“By moving along the flanks and occupying certain heights there, our armed forces have made it very difficult to
the enemy to remain in the city itself.
“We’re still moving forward, but the intensity is somewhat reduced,” she said.
In a post on the Telegram messaging app, she wrote: “The enemy’s offensive potential has been greatly reduced, huge losses have been inflicted on the enemy (and) we have gained time for certain actions which will be discussed later.”
This weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky compared the devastation in Bakhmut to that inflicted on Hiroshima in Japan after the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945.
Mr Zelensky said “there is nothing left” and said the invading forces had “destroyed everything”, fueling speculation that he had fallen.
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He came after the Russian president Vladimir Poutine praised his troops for capturing the city, which is in the Donetsk region.
The Kremlin Defense Ministry and the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, both had claimed the area was under Russian control SATURDAY.
But speaking after the G7 summit in Hiroshima, where he was seeking to rally international support, the Ukrainian leader said: “I clearly understand what is happening in Bakhmut.
“I cannot share with you the tactical views of our military, of our warriors.
“But from today, we see that the country which is dozens of times bigger than us, cannot occupy us, cannot win in this war.
“Bakhmut is not occupied by the Russian Federation to this day.”
Mr Zelenskyy added: “Let me be sincere that the images of ruined Hiroshima really remind me, totally remind me of Bakhmut and other similar settlements and towns.
“All the same – nothing alive, all the buildings have been destroyed, it is not clear where the street is, where the houses were.
“It’s just a totally destroyed area, there’s nothing left, not a single person.”
Analysts said Bakhmut’s fall would be a blow to Ukraine and give Russia tactical advantages, but would not be decisive for the outcome of the war.
Russian forces would still face the massive task of seizing the remaining part of the Donetsk region still under Ukrainian control, including several heavily fortified areas.