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    Conflicting Reports Surrounding Bakhmut: A Symbolic Battleground in the Russian-Ukrainian Conflict

    Bakhmut, a city that has been the centre of a fierce battle between Russians and Ukrainians for months, remains shrouded in contradictory reports. The Kremlin released a statement declaring that the operation to liberate the city had concluded, while Ukraine denies this and assures that the “fighting in Bakhmut continues.” However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made intriguing remarks during the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, stating, “Today, Bakhmut exists only in our hearts.”

    During a press conference in Hiroshima, Volodymyr Zelensky admitted that Bakhmut had been completely destroyed as a result of the ongoing conflict. “Today, Bakhmut exists only in our hearts. Nothing remains of that place,” emphasized Zelensky. He further noted that only numerous “fallen Russians” were left in the city after the fighting. Speculations arose after the press conference suggesting that the Ukrainian President had confirmed that Russian forces had gained control of the city.

    Shortly after the Ukrainian leader’s statement, his spokesperson, Serhiy Nikiforov, addressed the issue. Nikiforov took to social media, stating that the Ukrainian President did not confirm the occupation of Bakhmut by Russian forces. He quoted Zelensky’s response to a reporter’s question about Bakhmut: “Russians claim to have taken control of Bakhmut. President’s response: I don’t think so. In this way, the President denied the occupation of Bakhmut,” Nikiforov declared on Facebook.

    The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces announced that the fighting for Bakhmut was still ongoing. “In Donbas, there were 53 clashes between Ukrainian and Russian forces in the past 24 hours. Russian troops continue to concentrate their main efforts in the Kupyansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Maryinka sectors in eastern Ukraine. The epicentre of the armed conflict remains in the cities of Bakhmut and Maryinka,” read the morning statement.

    On Saturday, the head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, announced the complete takeover of Bakhmut. Prigozhin reportedly received congratulations from Vladimir Putin as well. According to a statement on the Kremlin’s website, the longest and bloodiest battle of the 15-month war concluded in victory for the Russians. “All those who distinguished themselves in it will receive state awards,” the statement read.

    Meanwhile, the Ukrainian side refuted Prigozhin’s reports yesterday. Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defence Hanna Malara stated that “heavy fighting” was taking place in Bakhmut, adding that the situation was critical. She emphasized that Ukrainian forces were holding their defence in the southwestern part of the city.

    The battle for Bakhmut, located in the Donbas Coal Basin in southeastern Ukraine, is regarded as symbolic by both Ukrainians and Russians. It is one of the largest and most intense clashes in the Russian-Ukrainian war, which has already claimed tens of thousands of lives among soldiers from both sides. Many analysts have pointed out that Bakhmut lacks significant strategic importance, and the defeat of either side would be more of a costly political setback than a tactical defeat.

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