Ukrainian leaders on Monday again denied that Russia has taken full control of Bakhmut, stressing their forces still hold a small part of the city despite Moscow's claims of complete victory.
Russian private military company Wagner Group first claimed control over Bakhmut Saturday, which was later confirmed by Russia's Ministry of Defense.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denied Sunday that Russia had taken over the city during brief remarks with allied world leaders at the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan.
Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said in a Telegram post that Ukrainian troops still hold facilities and areas in the southwestern part of the city, though she acknowledged "the enemy is sweeping the areas of the city under his control."
"The struggle for dominant heights continues on the flanks — the north and south of the suburbs," Maliar said. "Our fighters do not give the enemy the opportunity to gain a foothold there."
Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, who heads Ukraine's ground forces, said recent Ukrainian advances have given his troops control of the outskirts of the city.
"In the future, this will give us the opportunity to enter the city when the operational situation at the front changes," Syrskyi said on Telegram.
Over the weekend, Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin shared images of soldiers planting the Russian flag and a Wagner flag atop shattered ruins of Bakhmut.
Wagner Group has led the bloody assault on the eastern city, sending waves of soldiers, including those recruited from prisons, toward Ukrainian lines in order to make incremental advances.
The battle of Bakhmut has seen some of the fiercest fighting so far and is the war's longest battle, dragging on for more than half a year. Most of the city has been shelled into complete ruins.
“For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts,” Zelensky said during a meeting Sunday with President Biden in Hiroshima. “There is nothing in this place.”
For months, Ukrainian and Russian forces were fighting block-by-block for small advances, which came at a huge cost for both sides. The U.S. has estimated that 100,000 Russian soldiers may have been killed or wounded in Bakhmut.
On Telegram, Maliar said the defense of Bakhmut completed its "military tasks."
"The offensive potential of the enemy has been significantly reduced, huge losses have been inflicted on the enemy, we have gained time for certain actions," she wrote.