Kyiv has said it is holding off attacks from Russian forces still attempting to surround Bakhmut, a near-destroyed eastern Ukrainian city that Moscow has been trying to capture for months.

Ukraine has pledged to defend “fortress Bakhmut” but has faced Russian troops determined to take the city that has become a political prize as the battle drags on.

The Ukrainian general staff said “more than 130 enemy attacks” had been repelled over the past day, including in Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut and Avdiivka.

“The enemy continues its attempts to encircle the town of Bakhmut,” it said on Sunday morning.

Bakhmut has been mostly reduced to rubble during the longest and bloodiest battle of the invasion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday said Kyiv’s forces were in a “painful and difficult” battle in the eastern Donbas region, which includes Bakhmut.

“I would like to pay special tribute to the bravery, strength and resilience of the soldiers fighting in the Donbas,” Zelenskyy said in his daily address, adding “this is one of the hardest battles. Painful and difficult.”

Sergiy Cherevaty, a spokesman for Ukrainian forces, said on Saturday the situation was “difficult but under control” in the city he described as a “priority target for the enemy”.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper: “The Russians’ losses run to 500 killed and wounded every day.”

The casualty figures could not be independently verified.

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