They are still fighting and vowing not to give in, but pro-Russian separatists are facing a fierce offensive from Ukrainian forces thrusting deeper into rebel-held territory.
Kyiv’s troops have recaptured dozens of settlements. Amid the fighting, living conditions for civilians are desperate.
The beleaguered city of Luhansk is now on its 20th day without water and regular supplies of electricity.
More than 400,000 people are thought to have fled the fighting in Ukraine.
“We are ready to go,” said Tatjana, a woman in the battle-scarred town of Sadowe.
“We are leaving, at least for a few days. It would be horrible to stay.”
Ukrainian forces have been gaining ground around the rebel strongholds of Luhansk and Donetsk, despite suffering heavy losses.
A military spokesman said rebels have shot down a Ukrainian helicopter near Luhansk, killing two crew members.
According to the UN, more than 2,000 people – combatants and civilians – have died in this conflict.
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