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Russia forces battling Ukrainians in their last Bakhmut strongholds: Report

File photo of Ukrainian troops in the flashpoint city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine

Russia's defense ministry says the country's soldiers are battling Ukrainians in the latter's last strongholds in the flashpoint city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

The ministry offered the information in a briefing on Friday, saying the Russian forces were engaged against the Ukrainians in the city's western parts, which has been identified as the last part of the city still held by Kiev's troops.

The battle over the city has been dragging on for months.

Kiev acknowledged that Russian forces had made some advances in fierce fighting for Bakhmut, but still alleged that the situation was under control.

"Decisions are being made according to military expediency," Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Russia has been carrying out what it calls a special military operation against its neighbor since last February. Moscow says the operation aims to stop Kiev's persecution of the pro-Russian population in eastern Ukraine and to "de-Nazify" the ex-Soviet republic.

Kiev has, ever since the onset of the conflict, been pressing its Western allies for a constant and increasingly-improving flow of state-of-the-art weapons.

Russia's operation in Bakhmut relies heavily on the Wagner security company, whose commander Yevgeny Prigozhin warned about the prospect of a Ukrainian counterattack.

"The West has handed over 230 tanks and 1,500 other armored vehicles. This, too, is enough to provide serious opposition," he said.

On Wednesday, the United States announced its 36th security package for Ukraine since the start of the war, that brought the total US military assistance for the Kiev government to more than $35.4 billion in that time.

Russian officials have, however, repeatedly warned that further armament of Kiev would only prolong the conflict.

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