Tuesday, Russian soldiers launched an all-out attack to encircle Ukrainian troops in twin eastern cities that span a river, a struggle that might determine the success or failure of Moscow's primary push in the industrial heart of Donbas.
Russia seeks to capture the two separatist-held provinces of Donbas, Donetsk, and Luhansk and encircle Ukrainian forces on the significant eastern front.
Regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told a local affiliate of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that Russian soldiers seized control of three Donetsk area towns, including Svitlodarsk.
Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, stated, "The situation on the (eastern) front is extremely difficult because the fate of this country is perhaps being decided (there) right now,"
The city of Sievierodonetsk on the east bank of the Siverskiy Donets River and its twin city of Lysychansk on the west bank has become the crucial battlefield there. To encircle them, Russian forces were advancing from three directions.
"The enemy has focused its efforts on carrying out an offensive to encircle Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk," said Serhiy Gaidai, the province of Luhansk, where the two cities are among the last remaining Ukrainian territory.
According to Ukraine's military, Moscow's troops murdered at least 14 civilians in the Donbas region on Tuesday, using planes, rocket launchers, artillery, tanks, mortars, and missiles.
Reuters could not immediately verify the information.
Authorities in Ukraine's second-largest city of Kharkiv reopened the underground metro. Thousands of residents had sheltered for months under unrelenting bombing as a sign of the country's progress elsewhere.
The decision was made after Ukraine moved Russian forces entirely out of artillery range of the northern city, as it did in March with the capital, Kyiv.
World War III?
Three months into the invasion, Moscow has only modest gains for its worst military casualties in decades. In contrast, a large portion of Ukraine has been ravaged by the most significant attack on a European state since 1945.
More than 6,500,000 people have fled abroad, untold thousands have been slain, and entire cities have been left to ashes.
Due to restrictions and interrupted supply networks, the war has also generated rising food shortages and surging costs. Ukraine and Russia are both significant exporters of grain and other commodities.
Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, accused Russia of exploiting food supplies as a weapon.
"In Russian-occupied Ukraine, the Kremlin's army is confiscating grain stocks and machinery (...) And Russian warships in the Black Sea are blockading Ukrainian ships full of wheat and sunflower seeds," she said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
In Davos, billionaire banker George Soros stated that Russia's invasion of Ukraine may have heralded the beginning of World War III.
"The best and perhaps only way to preserve our civilization is to defeat Putin as soon as possible," he stated.
Japan, a key U.S. ally in Asia, scrambled jets on Tuesday as Russian and Chinese airplanes approached its airspace during a visit to Tokyo by Vice President Joe Biden, highlighting the global tensions generated by the war.
In a move that might bring Moscow closer to the edge of default, the Biden administration decided it would not extend a waiver allowing Russia to pay U.S. bondholders slated to expire on Wednesday.
Moscow was permitted to continue paying interest and principal on its government debt, preventing a default.
On Tuesday, senior Russian officials hinted at the possibility of a protracted confrontation.
Sergei Shoigu, the Russian minister of defense, stated that Russia was cautiously advancing to avoid civilian casualties. Nikolai Patrushev, the chairman of Putin's security council, indicated that Moscow would fight for as long as it took to destroy "Nazism" in Ukraine, a rationale for the conflict that the West deems to be without merit.
Tuesday, authorities in Kharkiv summoned hundreds of people living underground in trains and stations to vacate their dwellings.
Nataliia Lopanska, who had stayed on a metro train for virtually the entire duration of the war, stated, "Everyone is crazily scared, because there is still shelling, the rocket attacks haven't been stopped,"
The combat in Donbas follows Russia's most significant triumph in months: the capitulation of Ukraine's military in the port of Mariupol last week, following a siege in which Kyiv estimates that tens of thousands of people perished.
Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol, who is currently operating outside the Russian-held city, reported that bodies were continually being discovered in the rubble.
He reported that approximately 200 decomposing bodies were discovered in the basement of a high-rise structure. Locals refused to collect them, and Russian authorities abandoned the site, leaving a foul odor in the neighborhood.
According to a new poll conducted on Tuesday that highlights the barriers to a diplomatic solution to the war, eighty-two percent of Ukrainians say their country should not sign away any territory as part of a peace deal with Russia.
In Russia, where criticism of what it terms a "special operation" is prohibited and independent media has been shut down, jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny appeared in court via video link from a prison colony to criticize the "stupid war which your Putin started"
"One madman has got his claws into Ukraine and I do not know what he wants to do with it - this crazy thief," he remarked.