Ukraine’s military said early Tuesday that a “new phase of war” began a day earlier when “the occupiers made an attempt to break through our defenses along nearly the entire frontline.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that “another phase of this operation is starting now.”

Russia ratcheted up its battle for control of Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland on Tuesday, intensifying assaults on cities and towns along a front hundreds of miles long in what officials on both sides described as a new phase of the war, AP reports.

After a Russian push to overrun the capital failed, the Kremlin declared that its main goal was the capture of the eastern Donbas region, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years.

If successful, that offensive would give President Vladimir Putin a vital piece of Ukraine and a badly needed victory in the now 7-week-old war that he could present to the Russian people amid mounting casualties and economic hardship caused by the West’s sanctions.

It would also effectively slice Ukraine in two and deprive it of the main industrial assets concentrated in the east, including coal mines, metals plants and machine-building factories.

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