The artillery battle for Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region is fully underway, according to the Pentagon, which estimated that defenders have managed to push back planned Russian advances by at least two weeks. Nevertheless, the Russian offensive across eastern Ukraine has gained more territory in two provinces that have been fought over by Moscow-aligned separatists and Kyiv since 2014. Ukraine officials say Kremlin forces have targeted residential areas in the east with dozens of strikes, but have also suffered an embarrassing defeat. And for the first time since Feb. 18, US officials said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu. 

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