Ukraine holding out in cities of Soledar and Bakhmut amid fierce fighting

Ukrainian soldier Volodymyr Kerbut died in Soledar and was laid to rest in Bucha, his life and death linked to two of the bloodiest scenes since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

He was 46 years old and served 25 years as a policeman before voluntarily enlisting when the war began.

Weeks later the streets of Bucha were littered with civilian corpses.

In nearby Soledar, a handful of Volodymyr's comrades were holding out as best they could against an onslaught by the Russian army and Wagner mercenaries.

Moscow says the city has fallen, Ukraine denies the claim.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, promises to do everything possible to prevent Soledar and the neighbouring Bakhmut from falling into the hands of an enemy that seems ready to take the cities at any price.

Bakhmut is another city that has been at the heart of a grinding fight between Russian and Ukrainian forces in the past few months.

At a health centre in the city, Dr Elena Molchanova ushers patients into a narrow office warmed by a wood-burning stove, where she hands out medication and fills in death certificates.

Sometimes her visitors, the last remaining residents in the town shelled daily and cut from essential services, are just seeking shelter from the biting cold.

The 40-year-old doctor is one of just five left in Bakhmut who are now a lifeline to the some 8,000 people local officials say are still in the city that used to be home to 70,000.