Zelensky confirms Bakhmut loss, says 'nothing left'
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared on Sunday to confirm the loss of the east Ukrainian city of Bakhmut to the Russians, adding there was "nothing left" of the city.
Asked if Ukrainian forces were holding on or if Russia had captured the city, Zelensky was not entirely clear, but said "you have to understand there is nothing" there. "For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts."
Bakhmut, a salt mining town that once had a population of 70,000 people, has been the scene of the longest and bloodiest battle in Moscow's more than year-long Ukraine offensive.
The fall to Russia of Bakhmut, where both Moscow and Kyiv are believed to have suffered huge losses, has high symbolic value - as it allowed Moscow to bring home a victory after a series of humiliating defeats.
On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated the Wagner mercenary force and the Russian army for what he called the "liberation" of Bakhmut, which Russia calls by its Soviet-era name of Artyomovsk.
In a statement published on the Kremlin website, Putin said that the battle - the longest and bloodiest of the 15-month war - had ended in a Russian victory and that all those who had excelled in it on Moscow's side would be given state awards.
"The Head of State congratulated Wagner's assault groups, as well as all members of the units of the Russian Armed Forces who provided them with the necessary support and cover on their flanks, on the completion of the operation to liberate Artyomovsk (Bakhmut)," the statement said.
"All those who distinguished themselves will be presented with state awards," it said.