Ukraine says it controls key route into Bakhmut

STORY: Ukrainian forces are still in control of a key supply route into the shattered, embattled city of Bakhmut, according to a military spokesperson, while a Russian mercenary commander publicly criticized Moscow and demanded more ammunition to finish the fight.

Russian forces have been trying for 10 months to punch their way into the shattered remains of what was once a city of 70,000. Fighting has been block by block and house by house, with both sides describing it as a 'meat grinder.'

Kyiv has pledged to defend Bakhmut, which Russia sees as a stepping stone to attack other cities.

A spokesperson for Ukraine's forces in the east told a news website that the 17-kilometer stretch he dubbed "the road of life" leading from the town of Chasiv Yar into Bakhmut was still under Kyiv's control.

On the other side of the frontline, Yevgeny Prigozhin late on Saturday said his fighters with the Wagner mercenary group had advanced some 100 to 150 meters further into the city. But he said that effort cost him 94 troops.

Prigozhin and his private militia have led the Russian attack on the city and often claim unverifiable successes in videos such as this.

In an audio recording published on the Telegram message app, Prigozhin said his losses would have been five times fewer if his fighters had more ammunition.

In a separate video interview with a Russian military blogger, Prigozhin said his soldiers had only enough ammo for a few days, and said that if he wasn't resupplied he'd be forced to withdraw.

Ukraine, too, has been long crying for more weaponry to sustain its fight.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Sunday said a planned spring counter-offensive would not hinge on the arrival of new western warplanes. He's been asking for advanced F-16 fighters from the U.S. and NATO allies but said the planned attack could not wait.

On Saturday, a plume of black smoke rose from a Russian fuel depot in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, which the city's Moscow-installed governor blamed on a Ukrainian drone strike.

Meanwhile, civilian casualties continue to mount. On Sunday, the Ukrainian city of Uman held a funeral for two children killed by a Russian missile. At least 25 civilians were killed in a wave of Russian airstrikes last week.