Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky appeared Sunday to confirm the loss of Bakhmut to the Russians, adding there was "nothing left" of the city.
Asked if Ukrainian forces were holding on or if Russia had captured the city, Zelensky was not entirely clear, but said "you have to understand there is nothing" there. "For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts."
The Russian military announced on Saturday the capture of the city, which had turned into the bloodiest battle 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 given the city's lack of strategic importance in the wider war.
Zelensky, sitting alongside US president Joe Biden at a meeting on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, reflected the difficulty of discussing Bakhmut with a lengthy, emotional answer.
Asked if Ukrainian forces were holding on or if Russia had captured the city, Zelensky was not entirely clear, answering: "I think no."
He then appeared to suggest Bakhmut was a only pyrrhic victory for the Russians, and that there was nothing left of the city for the Ukrainians to lose.
"There is nothing in this place... just ruins and a lot of dead Russians," he told reporters.
"But they came to us," he said of the Russians.
He said that Ukrainian soldiers did "strong work" and "we appreciate their great job".
At the meeting, Biden announced a new package of weapons for Ukraine, which is expected to launch a large-scale counteroffensive soon to push Russians back from parts of the territory they occupy.
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."