President Volodymyr Zelensky said on May 21 that Russian troops have not captured the embattled city of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast.
"Currently (Ukrainian) soldiers are performing very important assignments," Zelensky told a press conference during the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan. "They're in Bakhmut. I won't say in which locations but this means that Bakhmut has not been seized by Russia as of now. There can't be two or three interpretations of this."
Zelensky also said that Russia “can't defeat” Ukraine.
"We don't have easy questions and answers," he said. "But we hold on because of the courage of our warriors. We don't leave our men to die. I understand what's going on out there and for what."
Zelensky's comments come a day after the Russian Defense Ministry and Russia's Wagner mercenary group claimed complete control over the city. The claim was immediately denied by the Ukrainian military and Ukrainian authorities.
Ukraine’s army continues to hold positions in the southwestern part of the city, Serhii Cherevatyi, the Eastern Military Command's spokesperson, told Suspilne television on May 21.
“The city is essentially razed to the ground. The enemy is destroying (the city) on a daily basis with artillery and airstrikes, and our units report that the situation is extremely difficult,” Cherevatyi said.
Ukraine’s military holds fortifications and several buildings in southwestern Bakhmut, according to the report.
“Heavy battles are raging on,” Cherevatyi said, adding that Ukrainian troops have prevented Russian attacks by “pressuring the flanks.”
Capturing Bakhmut, which Moscow refers to by the Soviet toponym of Artiomovsk, would mean Russia’s first military gain in over 10 months.
Bakhmut has been the epicenter of Russia’s war against Ukraine for about a year and is almost completely destroyed by the artillery fire and airstrikes.