Russia claims its forces are “encircling” Bakhmut and are battling to take control of the highway that connects the city to the nearby town of Chasiv Yar. A Russian-installed official says Bakhmut was “operationally surrounded” with its forces “closing the ring around the city”. Russian-installed officials in Luhansk claim Ukrainian forces won’t be able to make an orderly retreat from Bakhmut. Meanwhile, The Kremlin has warned of “direct escalation” if the US sends long-range missiles to Ukraine. Moscow alleges all of NATO’s military infrastructure, even its satellites, are working against Russia for Ukraine’s sake. Russia has slammed “absurd” comments from French President Macron after he refused to rule out delivering fighter jets to Ukraine.