Zelenskiy: more than 1,000 Russian dead in Bakhmut
STORY: Relentless fighting surged in and around the ravaged eastern Ukraine city of Bakhmut on Monday, in a months-long struggle that has become Europe's bloodiest infantry battle since World War Two.
To the north, Ukrainian paramedics raced to stabilize and evacuate soldiers wounded on the front line.
Russian forces led by the Wagner mercenary army have captured the city's east but so far failed to encircle it.
A Ukrainian commander on the ground said Monday that all enemy attempts to capture the town have been repelled, while President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said late Sunday that Russian forces had taken heavy losses.
"In less than a week - starting from March 6 - we managed to kill more than 1,100 enemy soldiers in the Bakhmut sector alone, which is Russia's irreversible loss, the loss right there, near Bakhmut."
Reports of intense combat, also coming from the Russian side
Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin – who is leading Russia's assault on Bakhmut -- on Sunday described the situation as ‘very tough'.
"The enemy is fighting for every meter and the closer we are to the center of the city, the harder the fighting, the more the artillery is shelling at us, the more tanks appear. The Ukrainians throw in endless reserves. But we are advancing and we will be advancing."
Footage aired by Russian tv over the weekend showed devastation purported to be southern Bakhmut, with buildings in ruins and bodies strewn on the ground.
A Russian soldier said they went house to house, 'assaulting' the groups inside.
Ukraine has vowed not to withdraw, aiming to inflict heavy losses on Russia ahead of a planned counterattack later this year.
Moscow says taking the city would be a major success, opening a path to capture the rest of the surrounding Donetsk region.
As the fighting ground on, Moscow appeared on the cusp of a diplomatic breakthrough: several sources told Reuters that China's President Xi Jinping could visit Russia as soon as next week.
Putin has touted such a visit as a show of support..
China has declined to ascribe blame for the war while opposing Western sanctions against Russia, and has said it intends to try to broker peace in Ukraine.
But the deepening ties between Russia and China are stirring concerns in the West.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday that Russia and China threatened to create a world … ‘defined by danger, disorder and division."
In an update to its foreign policy framework published Monday, Britain cast China as representing an "epoch-defining challenge" to the world order, declaring that the UK's security hinged on the outcome of the Ukraine war.