As Russian soldiers, alongside Wagner Group mercenary fighters, continue to assault areas of eastern Ukraine, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has warned that the symbolic city of Bakhmut could fall “in the coming days”.

The city, located in northern Donetsk Oblast, has been the centre of the frontline’s fiercest fighting for more than half a year. In the last weeks, the few remaining Ukrainian civilians in the area have been slowly evacuated as Russian soldiers edge closer.

Earlier today, Russia’s Wagner mercenary group claimed that it had captured the eastern part of the city.

Speaking this afternoon outside a meeting of EU defence ministers in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, Mr Stoltenberg said: “What we see is that Russia is throwing more troops, more forces and what Russia lacks in quality they try to make up in quantity.

“They have suffered big losses, but at the same time, we cannot rule out that Bakhmut may eventually fall in the coming days.”

But he insisted “it is also important to highlight that this does not necessarily reflect any turning point of the war.

“It just highlights that we should not underestimate Russia. We must continue to provide support to Ukraine,” he said.

The announcement came after the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said the fall of Bakhmut would give Moscow an “open road” for offences deeper into Ukraine.

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