The head of Russian mercenary group Wagner said Friday the group had "practically encircled" Bakhmut, an industrial city in eastern Ukraine that has seen the fiercest fighting of Moscow's invasion.
The Kremlin meanwhile warned the West against providing more arms to Ukraine, as key Kyiv backers President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz were set to meet in Washington.
Ukraine has said it will defend "fortress Bakhmut" for as long as possible but this week officials said the situation was becoming increasingly difficult.
Russia is determined to seize Bakhmut -- a now-destroyed city once known for its sparkling wine -- as part of its wider aim of capturing the entire Donetsk region.
"Wagner paramilitary group units have practically surrounded Bakhmut, only one road remains" to be captured, Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a video on Telegram.
The stocky 61-year old has regularly been posting about advances of Wagner, his once-shadowy force that has taken centre stage in the fight in eastern Ukraine.
He has said in recent weeks that his fighters have seized three villages north of Bakhmut -- Yagidne, Berkhivka and Paraskoviivka.