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Zelenskiy says Bakhmut still in Ukraine's hands

HIROSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) -Ukraine said on Sunday that it was still fighting for control of the eastern city of Bakhmut, after President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had said earlier that the city remained "only in our hearts."

Asked before a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in Japan if the city was still in Ukraine's hands after the Russians said they had seized it in its entirety, Zelenskiy told reporters, "I think no."

He added: "For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts."

Zelenskiy's press secretary later clarified that the leader was responding to a different part of the question.

"Reporter's question: Russians said they have taken Bakhmut," Sergii Nykyforov wrote on Facebook. "President's reply: I think no."

He added in Ukrainian: "In this way, the president denied the capture of Bakhmut."

Russia claimed on Saturday to have fully captured the smashed eastern Ukrainian city, which if true would mark an end to the longest and bloodiest battle of the 15-month war.

"It is tragedy," Zelenskiy said. "There is nothing on this place."

The assault on the largely levelled city was led by troops from the Wagner Group of mercenaries, whose leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said earlier in the day that his troops had finally pushed the Ukrainians out of the last built-up area inside the city.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Dan Peleschuk, Editing by William Maclean, Simon Cameron-Moore and Hugh Lawson)