In Chasiv Yar, the first major town to Bakhmut’s west, few buildings are left intact and locals lining up to collect food and other aid do not even flinch at the sound of artillery.
“It used to be scarier but now we have got used to it,” said 50-year-old humanitarian volunteer Maksym. “You don’t even pay attention,” he added, his words nearly drowned out by the sound of explosions.
As the battles ground on, US media outlet CNN reported that Ukraine was forced to amend some military plans ahead of its long-anticipated counter-offensive because of the leak of dozens of secret documents.
US officials are trying to trace the source of the leak, reviewing how they share secrets internally and dealing with the diplomatic fallout.
The documents detail topics including information on the Ukraine conflict, in which Washington has supplied Kyiv with huge amounts of weapons and led international condemnation of Moscow’s invasion.
Asked about the report, Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said Kyiv’s strategic plans remained unchanged but that specific tactics were always subject to change.
The secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, told Reuters: “The opinion of people who have nothing to do with this do not interest us … The circle of people who possess information is extremely restricted.”
Some national security experts and US officials have said they suspect the leaker could be American, but have not ruled out pro-Russian actors.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the leak, but said: “There is in fact a tendency to always blame everything on Russia. It is, in general, a disease.”
HOT ON THE EASTERN FRONT
A Ukrainian counter-offensive has long been expected after months of attritional warfare in the east.
A Russian winter offensive failed to make much progress and its troops have been bogged down in a series of battles where advances have been incremental and come at a huge cost.
The Ukrainian defenders have also taken heavy casualties.
Syrskyi said Moscow was sending in special forces and airborne units to help their attack on Bakhmut as members of Russia’s private mercenary Wagner group, who have spearheaded the Bakhmut assault, were exhausted.
Reuters could not verify the battlefield accounts.