Chasiv Yar has been used as a regrouping point and forward artillery base for the Ukrainian army... and, if Russian forces capture the town, they would be able to launch direct offensives against several so-called "fortress cities".

Here's what you need to know.

[Why is Chasiv Yar important?]

Chasiv Yar - or Quiet Ravine - sits in the industrial Donbas area in the Donetsk region, one of four Ukrainian regions Moscow claims to have annexed.

The town, which Russians call Chasov Yar, sits on higher ground and has been extensively shelled and damaged by Moscow's forces.

It had a pre-war population of more than 12,000, only a few hundred mostly elderly residents remain.

If Russian forces take Chasiv Yar, they would be able to launch direct offensives against several Ukrainian "fortress cities", which are described as "the backbone" of the Ukrainian army's defense in the east by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.

They are Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, Druzhkivka, and Kostiantynivka, according to Russian military analysts.

The IWS warned that losing Druzhkivka and Kostiantynivka in particular would be a major operational setback that would be hard to reverse.

[What shape is the battle taking?]

Casualties on both sides during Russia's lengthy capture of Bakhmut and Avdiivka, to the south, have been high, though no reliable public data exists.

A former Kremlin adviser forecast the battle for Chasiv Yar would be equally hard from a Russian perspective.

Ukraine's top commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi has warned that the battlefield situation in the east has deteriorated...

But said Kyiv's brigades in Chasiv Yar have been reinforced with ammunition and drones and are holding back Russian assaults for now.

Syrskyi said Moscow wants to take the town by May 9, the date when Russia marks the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.

The Kremlin has not acknowledged setting such a deadline.

Moscow's forces, according to embedded Russian war correspondents and analysts, are likely to attempt to squeeze Ukrainian forces in order to force them to flee westwards.

Ukrainian analysts said on social media platform X that Russia was gathering reserves for the battle.