Capturing the key city would give Moscow a rare battlefield gain after months of setbacks. But Kyiv says Russia is losing hundreds of fighters every day in Bakhmut.
As pressure from Russian forces intensified, a Ukrainian army representative said it was no longer safe for civilians to leave the frontline eastern city of Bakhmut by vehicles and urged locals to escape on foot instead, the Associated Press (AP) news agency reported.
According to the AP, a pontoon bridge was set up by Ukrainian soldiers to help the few remaining residents reach the nearby village of Khromove. The agency said its team later saw at least five houses on fire after attacks in Khromove.
On Saturday, a British intelligence update said Russian fighters made further inroads into Bakhmut's northern suburbs, prompting Ukrainian units to destroy two critical bridges outside the city in the past 36 hours.
One of these bridges links Bakhmut to the nearby town of Chasiv Yar, along the last remaining Ukrainian resupply route, the British report said.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, has suggested that Ukrainian troops are preparing to withdraw from the key eastern stronghold.
But Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag that Russia's losses in Bakhmut "run to 500 killed and wounded every day."
The Russian soldiers were just "cannon fodder" in the "meat grinder tactics" used by Moscow, he said.
The Ukrainian defense chief said Moscow was making efforts to capture Bakhmut because it held "a symbolic place for the Russians."
Capturing Bakhmut would not only give Russian fighters a rare battlefield gain after months of setbacks, but could also rupture Ukraine's supply lines, allowing Moscow's forces to advance toward other Ukrainian strongholds in the eastern Donetsk region.