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Ukraine’s military said it had made new advances on Wednesday in heavy fighting near the eastern city of Bakhmut, and that Russia was continuing to send in new units including paratroopers.

The remarks were the latest by Kyiv in the past week to indicate that Russian forces have been pushed back in some areas around Bakhmut after months of combat.

“We are successfully conducting a defensive operation, counterattacking and during this day our units have penetrated up to 500 metres in some parts of the Bakhmut front,” military spokesperson Serhiy Cherevatyi told Ukrainian television.

He said he saw no sign that Russian forces were short of ammunition, contradicting statements by the head of a Russian mercenary group spearheading the assault on Bakhmut.

“The enemy is seeking to take over the city at will, striking with all systems and calibres. There can be no talk of any kind of shell hunger,” Cherevatyi said. “They are moving new units there (to Bakhmut), primarily paratroopers, in an attempt to achieve some kind of intermediate success.”

Moscow did not immediately comment on Cherevatyi’s remarks although Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency quoted the Russian Defence Ministry as saying its forces were continuing to fight to capture western parts of Bakhmut.

Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield situation.

Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said on Tuesday that Kyiv’s forces had reclaimed about 20 square kilometres (7.5 square miles) of territory around Bakhmut in recent days.

She repeated that assertion on Wednesday, and said fighting in Bakhmut was fierce.

Moscow sees Bakhmut, a city of about 70,000 before Russia’s full-scale invasion nearly 15 months ago, as a stepping-stone towards capturing the rest of the eastern Donbas region.

Ukrainian officials have signalled that the advances around Bakhmut are not part of a broader counteroffensive planned by Kyiv to push back the Russian forces.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ukraine denied a Russian hypersonic missile had destroyed a US-made Patriot missile defence system during an air strike on Tuesday on Kyiv.