Russia's war on Ukraine latest: Kyiv's forces cling to devastated Bakhmut

April 4 (Reuters) - Ukrainian and Russian forces battled in Bakhmut, the devastated eastern city which has become a symbol of Kyiv's defiance, while seven civilians were reported killed by Ukrainian artillery strikes in Russian-controlled areas.


* The head of Russia's private Wagner militia said Ukrainian forces were not abandoning Bakhmut but that, even if they did, he would need more support from the regular Russian military before trying to advance further.

* "Bakhmut is performing the key task of inflicting as many losses on Russia as possible and, most importantly, to prepare for a counter-attack to take place in late April-May," said Pavlo Narozhniy, a Ukrainian military analyst.

* Fighting also continues to rage further south around Avdiivka, a town near the Russian-held regional capital of Donetsk.

* Authorities in Russian-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine said a total of seven civilians were killed in two separate Ukrainian artillery strikes, Russian news agencies reported.

* Reuters could not verify the battlefield reports.


* China's Xi Jinping expressed willingness to speak to Ukrainian President Zelenskiy, the head of the European Union said, after French President Macron urged Beijing to talk sense to Russia over the war in Ukraine.

Xi, who has sought to position China as a potential mediator in the conflict but is seen by the West as favouring Russia, responded by saying he hoped Moscow and Kyiv could hold peace negotiations as soon as possible.

* However, an adviser to Russian President Putin rated the chances of peace talks starting this year at "zero".

* A top Ukrainian official ruled out talks with Moscow about territory until it withdraws all troops, pushing back on a colleague who had touted the idea of negotiations to resolve the Russian occupation of the Crimean peninsula.

* A European Union plan to send 1 million artillery shells to Ukraine is being held up as member states argue over how far spending for the plan will stay within the EU, diplomats said.

* Russia's refusal to give consular access to detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is "inexcusable," the White House said.


* S&P said Ukraine's medium-term macroeconomic outlook depends heavily on the duration and evolution of the war.


"We are ready, we have to do it (Ukrainian counter-offensive), the sooner, the better. The enemy must be chased away. At the moment we are waiting for the weather to change, the mud is an obstacle." - Naza, a 21-year-old unit commander of soldiers manning trenches near Bakhmut

* "If the Kyiv offensive fails, the West will be short of weapons and at that point Russia will be able to mobilise 400,000 men for the final attack." -Dmitry Suslov, a Putin adviser.

(Compiled by Reuters editors)

Compiled by Reuters editors

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