AP PHOTOS: Ukraine insists battle for Bakhmut is not over

Despite Russian claims to have captured the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, top military leaders in Ukraine insist the grinding nine-month battle there is not over.

Although Ukraine now controls only a small part of the city, Kyiv says its troops played a key role in the strategy of exhausting Russian forces and will carry on fighting. Tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides have died.

Satellite imagery shows infrastructure, apartment blocks and buildings reduced to rubble from relentless artillery attacks.

A Russian state TV report from the smoldering city showed Russian fighters yelling “Victory!” and placing two flags — the Russian tricolor and the black flag of the private military contractor Wagner — atop a tall, partly destroyed building.

The flags were mounted “so that everyone could see them,” the correspondent said, even though the bombed-out, deserted 400-year-old city looks like a ghost of itself after the longest and bloodiest battle of the war.

For Ukraine, the important factors have been inflicting high casualties and sapping their adversary’s morale for the small patch of the 1,500-kilometer (932-mile) front line as Kyiv prepares a counteroffensive in the 15-month-old war.

Ukraine's deputy defense minister, Hanna Maliar, said the Russians failed to surround Bakhmut and lost part of the heights around the city.

"The continuing advance of our troops in the suburbs greatly complicates the enemy’s presence,” Maliar said. “Our troops have taken the city in a semi-encirclement, which gives us the opportunity to destroy the enemy.”