Ukrainian troops defended positions in besieged Bakhmut during a relentless push by Russian forces to capture the city turned into a wasteland after seven months of fighting.

Both sides claimed successes in what has become the longest-running battle since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago.

Ukrainian forces on the ground shot down a Russian fighter jet near Bakhmut and made gains in northern parts of the city, military officials said.

Meanwhile, Yevgeny Prigozhin – founder of the mercenary Wagner Group, which has spearheaded the Russian assault on the city – said in a social media post that Russian forces took control of the settlement of Zaliznyanskoye and expanded the encirclement of Bakhmut.

Both claims could not be verified.

The battle for Bakhmut intensified after Russian forces captured the nearby town of Soledar in January. Russian soldiers must go through Bakhmut to push deeper into parts of eastern Donetsk province that Moscow seeks to fully control.

The only highway west has been targeted by Russian artillery fire, forcing Ukrainian defenders to rely increasingly on muddy rural roads that are hard to navigate.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy discussed the situation in Bakhmut with top military and intelligence officials and they all agreed on the need to hold the city.