Only 1,000 residents are left in Chasiv Yar, within Russian artillery range.
The boom of artillery fire is a constant refrain in the town of Chasiv Yar, just 10 miles from the city of Bakhmut and some of the fiercest fighting since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
What is different now is that the vast majority of those booms are outgoing — rather than incoming — fire, with Russian forces now on the backfoot.
“For us, those are good sounds,” Chasiv Yar’s mayor, Serhiy Chaus, told ABC News. “Definitely [the counteroffensive] going to make the city safer. Because when they push them further away they have less weapons they can reach us with.”
Residents — many of whom say they have nowhere else to go — hope the counteroffensive will make the town safer. Although they no longer flinch at the sound of the booms, they remain well within range of Russian artillery.
Before speaking to ABC News, Chaus had just been to inspect the site of a Russian strike on a garage. Thankfully, nobody was killed, he said.
Chasiv Yar lies on higher ground up the road from Bakhmut, the city where Russian forces and the Wagner group lost tens of thousands of men and spent more than six months taking resources from Ukrainian forces. During the battle, President Zelenskyy and the military top brass resisted calls to abandon Bakhmut — a city of more strategic than symbolic importance – as they sought to maximize Russian casualties there.
Now, Ukraine is back on the offensive and reports suggest the Ukrainian army is making gains around the city as they continue to probe along the frontline, which stretches thousands of miles, in the hope of a breakthrough.
“There were a calm couple of days, but now it’s started again,” Andriy, a local community leader, told ABC News.
Asked whether the counteroffensive has brought relief to residents here, his answer was an emphatic “No.”
“It’s the same as it was,” he said.
Yet there has not been a reprieve for the citizens who remain there. Access to running water, electricity and telephone signal is limited to “invincibility shelters” which provide their only connection to the outside world.
“Half an hour ago there was a strike and a fire and we felt how the ground was rumbling and shaking,” an elderly man in the ‘invincibility shelter,’ who did not want to be named, told ABC News. ‘Please help us. Please help us to end this.’