STORY: BAKHMUT RESIDENT, OLHA: "Dear God, our town used to be so beautiful. There were roses everywhere, flowers... It was clean, everything was kept in order."
Shellfire echoed on Saturday around the near-deserted streets of the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, the current focus of the most intense fighting in Russia's invasion of Ukraine…
This, despite Moscow's declaration of a ceasefire for Eastern Orthodox Christmas.
Humanitarian volunteer, Vasyl Liesin:
"The ceasefire, you know how that works? When Putin says there's a ceasefire, it's actually the other way around: there is no ceasefire. Russians shelled us a lot yesterday. During the night, it was more or less calm. But that's how it usually is: one day there's shelling, the other day it's calmer. Any time of the day, it can get loud. One simply can't count anymore."
Moscow said on Saturday its forces in Ukraine would maintain a 36-hour ceasefire declared by Russian President Vladimir Putin until midnight, despite Ukraine rejecting the offer.
It said its troops had only returned artillery fire when fired upon by Ukrainian forces.
Reuters was not able to ascertain the origin of the shells heard in Bakhmut.
A drive around the city, which sits on the front line bisecting Ukraine's Donetsk province, reveals the scars of months of bombardment, from smashed storefronts to mangled workshops and wrecked businesses.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, starting a war that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions of Ukrainians.
With weapons and financial support from its allies, Ukraine has driven Russia back from some of its territory, but battles are raging in the east and south.