Hiroshima, Japan, May 21: Volodymyr Zelensky’s spokesman on Sunday denied the Ukrainian president had confirmed the fall of Bakhmut to Russian troops in comments on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Japan.
“The president denied the capture of Bakhmut,” spokesman Sergiy Nykyforov said on Facebook.
Zelensky’s comments to reporters earlier in the Japanese city of Hiroshima had appeared to confirm Russia’s claim it had captured the city.
But it was unclear and Zelensky talked more about the destruction of the city.
“I think no,” the president had said when asked by a reporter: “Is Bakhmut still in Ukraine’s hands? The Russians say they have taken Bakhmut.”
Nykyforov characterised the reporter’s question as having been about whether the Russians had taken Bakhmut, not whether Ukraine had lost it, and therefore Zelenksy’s “no” meant a denial.
“You have to understand there is nothing” there, Zelensky also said in Japan, sitting alongside US President Joe Biden.
“For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts,” Zelensky had said.
The Russian military announced on Saturday the capture of the city, which had turned into the longest and one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
Its loss would be hugely symbolic for the Ukrainians, who held on for months there, ignoring US advice behind the scenes to put their focus elsewhere.
At the meeting, Biden announced a new package of weapons for Ukraine, which is expected to launch a large-scale counteroffensive soon.
The package would include “ammunition, artillery, armoured vehicles”, Biden said, days after giving allies the green light to transfer advanced American-built F-16 jets to Ukraine.
Biden said “the United States continues to help Ukraine respond, recover and rebuild. We’re also supporting peace.”
The White House said the new package was an “additional $375 million in ammunition and equipment, as well as to build Ukraine’s long term capacity to defend against and deter Russian aggression.”
However, there were no precise details on the types of weaponry.