White House official John Kirby said the Ukrainians had not been removed from the city, refuting the Wagner Group’s claims.
A White House official said the battle for Bakhmut is not over and Ukraine is still fighting hard for the town.
John Kirby, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, told reporters on Monday that the Ukrainians had not been evicted from the city, adding that an additional aid package for Ukraine is expected this week.
His comments came hours after Ukraine also said that Russian forces were “very far away” from capturing Bakhmut and that fighting raged around the city administration building where the Wagner mercenary group claimed to have raised the Russian flag.
“Pakhmut are Ukrainians, they haven’t captured anything and they are far from doing it, to put it mildly,” Serhiy Sherevati, a spokesman for the Eastern Military Command, told Reuters by phone.
Earlier on Monday, the Wagner Group, which spearheaded the attack on Bakhmut, claimed to have captured the city’s town hall. The Russian Defense Ministry has not confirmed full control of the city.
The fight for the industrial city of Bakhmut has become the longest and bloodiest battle in Russia’s offensive in Ukraine in a year. Most of Bakhmut’s pre-war population of about 70,000 fled the city in 2022.
Ukrainian forces say it is difficult to say how many civilians remain in Bakhmut, with estimates ranging from 1,000 to 5,000.
Finland becoming a member of NATO
In the meantime, Finland will officially become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military alliance, according to the Finnish President’s Office.
As NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels on Monday, “We will welcome Finland as the 31st member tomorrow.”
In response to Finland’s entry into NATO, Russia is reported to be strengthening its military capability.
“We will strengthen our military capabilities in the western and northwestern directions,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told RIA Novosti.
“In the event that forces and resources of other NATO members are deployed in Finland, we will take additional steps to reliably ensure Russia’s military security.”
Finland has a 1,300-kilometre (810-mile) border with Russia, which would nearly double the borders of the military alliance with Moscow.
In Slovakia, the prime ministers of the Czech Republic and Slovakia urged the European Union to put “targeted pressure” on the Kremlin by upholding sanctions imposed on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine last year.
The Czech and Slovak governments, led by Peter Fiala and Eduard Heger, respectively, met in the western Slovak city of Trencin.
“It is important for the European Union and its partners to maintain targeted pressure on the Russian Federation and fully implement the sanctions,” the prime ministers said in a statement.
They added that the allies should also “prevent the overrun of sanctions and establish mechanisms to punish those responsible for crimes related to this aggression.”
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