KOSTYANTYNIVKA, Ukraine - Ukrainian forces have been reduced to small footholds in the devastated eastern city of Bakhmut, which despite its limited strategic importance has emerged as the war's bloodiest battlefield. But they have made gains on the Russian flanks, in a move to encircle the city and extend the fight there, according to Ukrainian officials and military personnel in the field.
"I'm in the trenches. We've fortified ourselves in the positions" that Russia once held, Yuriy, a soldier in the Ukrainian Army's Fifth Separate Assault Brigade, wrote in a text message from a position to the south of Bakhmut, near the village of Klishchiivka. He spoke on the condition of anonymity for security reasons.