With that potentially pivotal offensive underway, Russia said Wednesday it has presented Ukraine with a draft document outlining its demands as part of talks aimed at ending the conflict — days after Putin said the negotiations were at a “dead end.”

Russian forces pressured a stubborn pocket of resistance in Mariupol amid renewed hopes Wednesday for an evacuation of thousands of civilians from the shattered port city that is a key battleground in Moscow’s new onslaught to take control of Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, AP reports.

In addition to pounding the holdout in Mariupol, Russian forces have intensified their attacks along a boomerang-shaped front hundreds of miles long elsewhere in the area known as the Donbas, home to coal mines, metal plants and factories vital to Ukraine’s economy.

If successful, the offensive would carve Ukraine in two and give President Vladimir Putin a badly needed victory following the failed attempt by Moscow’s forces to storm the capital, Kyiv, and stronger-than-expected resistance in the nearly two-month war.

But analysts say it could also devolve into a grim war of attrition as Russia attempts to defeat Ukraine’s most experienced, battle-hardened troops who already have been fighting pro-Moscow separatist forces for eight years in the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas.

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