Ukraine has accused Russia of robbing abandoned homes in the southern city of Kherson and occupying them with troops dressed in civilian attire in preparation for street warfare in what both sides believe will be one of the most crucial engagements of the war.
In recent days, Russia has ordered the evacuation of inhabitants from Kherson in preparation for a Ukrainian attack to reclaim the city, which was the first to be seized by Russian soldiers following their February invasion.
The city of Kherson, which had a prewar population of about 300,000, has been left without power and water for the past 48 hours, according to both sides.
Russian-installed officials alleged "sabotage" by the Ukrainians, while Ukrainian officials claimed the Russians cut 1.5 kilometers of electricity lines.
Kyiv has denounced the area's evacuation as a violation of international law and a war crime. Moscow claims it is evacuating its citizens for safety reasons.
On Monday, the Ukrainian military reported that approximately 100 crippled children were relocated from a medical center in Dnipriany, Kherson region, to the Moscow region. Patients from a senior care facility in Kakhovka are also being relocated, and the Russian military is assuming control of these facilities, according to the report.
On the west bank of the Dnieper River, which bisects Ukraine, Kherson is the lone pocket of Russian-held territory. It has been the primary objective of the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south, which has increased since the beginning of October.
The situation within Kherson was not independently verifiable. According to Reuters, Ukrainian forces on the neighboring front line anticipate fierce fighting before forcing the Russian occupants to flee the city.
According to the Ukrainian military, Russian forces masquerading as citizens occupy civilian buildings and fortify their positions inside in preparation for street combat.
Russian forces were "engaged in looting and stealing from inhabitants and infrastructure sites" and were transporting equipment, food, and cars back to the Russian Federation, according to a Monday night update.
The Russian authorities were contacted by Reuters for comment on the Ukrainian charges. Moscow denies civilian abuse.
In an early Tuesday statement, the Ukrainian military confirmed hits on a Russian anti-aircraft installation, an ammo depot, and the destruction of Russian armor in the Beryslav area of the Kherson region. It was stated that 32 Russian military members had perished.
In the neighborhood of the recently freed settlement of Nova Kamyanka, Ukrainian forces recorded four Russian airstrikes.
Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that the Donetsk region in the east remained the "epicentre" of the fighting, with the daily deaths of hundreds of Russians.
Bakhmut and Avdiivka are seeing the most intense fighting in the Donetsk area.
They call people 'meat'
On the diplomatic front, Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor for the White House, is participating in classified discussions with senior Russian officials to reduce the potential of a wider battle over Ukraine, according to a person familiar with the conversations.
According to the source, the negotiations have taken place in recent months and are ongoing. The Kremlin declined to comment on the initial Wall Street Journal story on the talks.
The war has caused significant harm to the global economy and heightened fears of nuclear Armageddon.
"We reserve the right to communicate directly with senior officials about issues of interest to the United States," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a news briefing, adding that "risk reduction" has been the sole topic of communication.
She stated that notwithstanding the outcome of Tuesday's congressional elections, US support for Ukraine would be "unwavering and unrelenting."
The adviser to the Ukrainian president, Mykhailo Podolyak, stated that Ukraine was willing to negotiate with a future Russian leader, but not Vladimir Putin, in response to a Washington Post report that the United States had urged Kyiv to signal a willingness for peace talks to retain Western support.
"Ukraine has never refused to dialogue," Podolyak tweeted, adding that Russia must first withdraw its military from Ukrainian territory. "Putin is prepared? Clearly not."
In his nightly address on Monday, Zelenskiy stated that Russia should be compelled to join in "genuine" peace talks.
In the weeks following the invasion in February, Russia lost all of the areas it had seized in northern Ukraine, and in subsequent months it suffered serious reverses in the east and south.
Putin has responded by mobilizing tens of thousands of reservists and announcing the annexation of occupied territory. On Monday, he stated that 50,000 recently enlisted reservists were already fighting in combat formations.
But as more troops are dispatched to the front and the number of losses rises, there is growing unease in Russia regarding the war's handling.
After Russian military bloggers uploaded an open letter from surviving members of the Pacific Fleet's 155th marine brigade, the Russian defense ministry took the extraordinary step of denying that an elite unit had suffered catastrophic losses on Monday.
In a letter addressed to Oleg Kozhemyako, the governor of the base's home region on the Pacific coast, the marines said that their unit had lost 300 men killed, wounded, or missing and half of its equipment in just four days.
They blamed "meat-calling" generals for demanding honors and bonuses.