Kyiv said on Monday its troops were still holding out in a "hellish" fight for Bakhmut, while Washington said that even if the eastern Ukrainian city should fall to a Russian offensive, it would not necessarily give Moscow momentum in the war, APA reports citing Reuters.
In the latest sign of a feud between Russia's military and the Wagner private army leading its Bakhmut assault, Wagner's boss demanded more ammunition and said his aide had been barred from the military's operational headquarters.
Russia is trying to encircle Bakhmut to secure its first major gain in more than half a year, at the culmination of a winter offensive that has brought the bloodiest fighting of the war.
Ukrainian troops have been reinforcing positions west of Bakhmut in apparent preparation for a possible retreat, but so far appear not to have decided to pull out.
Speaking to reporters in the Middle East, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he would not predict when or if Ukrainian troops might leave the city, but that its fall "won't necessarily mean that the Russians have changed the tide of this fight".