More on Jens Stoltenberg’s comments to the press earlier about the potential fall of Bakhmut, the city in eastern Ukraine that has the scene of fiercely fighting in recent months.

The Nato secretary general said it may fall into Russian hands in the coming days. “What we see is that Russia is throwing more troops, more forces and what Russia lacks in quality they try to make up in quantity.

“They have suffered big losses, but at the same time, we cannot rule out that Bakhmut may eventually fall in the coming days.”

He was speaking outside a meeting of EU defence ministers in the Swedish capital, Stockholm.

The head of the western military alliance, which backs Ukraine, insisted “it is also important to highlight that this does not necessarily reflect any turning point of the war.

“It just highlights that we should not underestimate Russia. We must continue to provide support to Ukraine,” he said.

The current status of Bakhmut is hotly disputed. Russia’s Wagner mercenary group claimed on Wednesday that it had captured the eastern part of the city.

The announcement came after the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said the fall of Bakhmut would give Moscow an “open road” for offences deeper into Ukraine.

The intense fighting around Bakhmut has been the longest and bloodiest in Russia’s more than year-long invasion, which has devastated swathes of Ukraine and displaced millions of people.