UK: Ukraine forces under severe pressure in Bakhmut

STORY: Ukrainian forces defending the eastern city of Bakhmut are facing increasingly strong pressure from Russian forces, British military intelligence said Saturday.

Explosions could be heard in Reuters footage showing Ukrainian soldiers digging trenches on Bakhmut's outskirts.

The battle here has raged for seven months.

A Russian victory in the city, which has been blasted to ruins, would give Moscow the first major prize in a costly winter offensive.

Ukraine is reinforcing the area with elite units, while regular Russian army and forces of the private military Wagner group have made further advances into Bakhmut’s northern suburbs, the British Defence Ministry said in its daily intelligence bulletin.

The Ukraine armed forces' general staff said in a Facebook post late on Saturday that Russian troops were trying but failing to surround Bakhmut, adding defenders had repelled numerous attacks in and around the city.

The British defense ministry said two key bridges have been destroyed within the last 36 hours, adding that Ukrainian-held resupply routes out of the city are increasingly limited.

Russian artillery pounded the last routes out of Bakhmut on Friday, with the founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin saying in a video it published that the city was “practically surrounded” and that Kyiv’s forces had only one road out left.

On Saturday, Prigozhin published another video showing what he said were coffins containing the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers being repatriated to territory held by Kyiv.

Russia says Bakhmut would be a stepping stone to completing the capture of the Donbas industrial region, one of Moscow's most important objectives.