Ukraine says fighting decreases in Bakhmut, shelling continues around it

KYIV (Reuters) -Ukraine said on Tuesday fighting had decreased in Bakhmut but shelling continued in the area around it, with its troops keeping a small foothold on the city's edge and Russian forces clearing areas they hold.

Russian forces said on Saturday they had completely taken Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine after months of heavy fighting. Ukraine says it has made advances on the devastated city's northern and southern flanks, and hopes to encircle it.

"In the city of Bakhmut, the fighting has decreased, the enemy continues to clear the areas under its control," Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Repeating Ukraine's assertions that its forces still hold a small part of the city 15 months after Russia's full-scale invasion, she said: "Our troops control the southwestern outskirts of the city in the 'Litak' district."

She said Kyiv's forces had made some progress "on the flanks to the north and south of Bakhmut" but gave no details.

Russian offensive actions had decreased slightly, she said, and added: "At the same time, the amount of shelling is consistently high."

Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield reports.

Moscow says capturing Bakhmut opens the way to further advances in the eastern industrial region known as the Donbas bordering Russia. Ukraine says its advance on the Russian forces' flanks is more meaningful than its withdrawal inside Bakhmut itself, and Russia will have to weaken its lines elsewhere to send reinforcements to hold the shattered city.

(Reporting by Max Hunder, Eidting by Timothy Heritage)