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Ukraine Battlespace Tightens

FILE: A Ukrainian tank is seen in position in the frontline in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Feb. 12, 2023.
FILE: A Ukrainian tank is seen in position in the frontline in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Feb. 12, 2023.

Kyiv conceded Monday that fighting with Russian forces north of Bakhmut was "difficult", a signal that Ukrainian troops are coming under mounting pressure in the longest-running battle of Moscow's invasion.

The city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine was coming heavy Russian artillery fire on Monday as Ukrainian forces there braced for possible ground attacks, Ukrainian military officials said.

Positions in Bakhmut have been fortified and only people with a military role were being allowed in, a deputy battalion commander said. Any civilians who still wanted to leave the city would have to brave the incoming fire, he said.

"The situation is difficult near Soledar: the village of Paraskoviivka is (coming) under intense shelling and assaults," the Ukrainian presidency said in its daily report.

Paraskoviivka is a hamlet on the northern outskirts of Bakhmut, where Russian forces have been posting painstaking incremental gains for several weeks.

Russia's defense ministry meanwhile said Monday Russian forces had captured Krasna Gora, another village adjacent to Paraskoviivka.

It said "volunteer assault units" with fire support from Russian artillery had "liberated" the settlement.

That announcement came after the Wagner private military group claimed to have captured the village and without any ground support from regular Russian forces.

The months-long battle for Bakhmut has exposed tensions between the paramilitary group and the Russian army though the Kremlin denies any rift.

In January, Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed his fighters had taken control of Soledar, but the Russian defense ministry said two days later that Moscow's forces were controlling the town.

Russian forces have cut three out of four Ukrainian supply routes to Bakhmut, the Kremlin-appointed leader of the Donetsk region Denis Pushilin said last week.

Observers of the conflict have downplayed Bakhmut's strategic importance, but the city has turned into a key political and symbolic prize.