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Your Monday Briefing: Russia Makes Slow Gains in the Donbas Region

We’re covering Russia’s brutal campaign to capture Sievierodonetsk and elections in France and Colombia.

Volunteers urged residents of Lysychansk, Ukraine, to evacuate on Sunday.
Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Russian forces mounted an assault on Sunday against Toshkivka, a key Ukrainian defensive position near Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, highlighting Ukraine’s faltering defense of two of the last cities in the Luhansk province of the Donbas region that are not yet under Russian control.

As Russian troops have moved to surround both cities, Ukrainian forces now hold only a small portion of Sievierodonetsk. Russia’s Defense Ministry did not immediately comment on Toshkivka, but said that its forces had seized Metolkine, a town just east of Sievierodonetsk.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington research group, said that Russia would likely be able to seize Sievierodonetsk in the next few weeks, but at a considerable cost. The slow-moving fight is sapping the morale of both sides, Western officials said, and NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, warned that the war could grind on for years.

A brutal war: An analysis of more than 1,000 photos found that Russia has used hundreds of weapons in Ukraine that are widely banned by international treaties and that kill, maim and destroy indiscriminately.

Death toll: The war in Ukraine has exacted a staggering toll in lives lost. But no one is quite sure what that toll is — only that many, many people have been killed.

Asia: Amy Qin, a Times correspondent based in Taipei, talked with the team behind The Morning newsletter about how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has Taiwanese civilians taking China’s aggression more seriously.

Credit…Pool photo by Michel Spingler

The centrist coalition led by President Emmanuel Macron of France is projected to come out ahead in crucial parliamentary elections, but a strong showing from an alliance of left-wing parties and a far-right surge prevented his forces from securing an absolute majority of seats, a setback that could complicate his second term.

Projections based on preliminary vote counts show Macron’s coalition winning 205 to 250 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, the lower and more powerful house of Parliament. That’s more than any other political group, but fewer than half of all seats. The lack of a majority will force Macron to reach across the aisle, and may hinder his ambitious agenda.

If the projections hold, it will be the first time in 20 years that a newly elected president will have failed to muster an absolute majority in the National Assembly.

Turnout: The vote was marred by record-low turnout, a growing concern in France and a warning sign for Macron, who has promised to rule closer to the people during his second term. Only about 46 percent of the French electorate went to the ballot box, according to projections, the second-lowest level since 1958.

Credit…Federico Rios for The New York Times

Colombians voted on Sunday in a presidential election that will replace a conservative establishment with a disruptive leader: either Gustavo Petro, a leftist former rebel and longtime senator, and Rodolfo Hernández, a wealthy businessman and a former mayor.

At stake is the fate of the third-largest nation in Latin America, where poverty and inequality have risen during the pandemic and polls have shown increasing distrust in nearly all major institutions. Anti-government protests sent hundreds of thousands of people into the streets last year in what became known as the “national strike.”

The candidates have entered the election virtually tied in the polls, and the result could be so close that it takes days to determine a winner. Follow our live coverage, or read our profiles of Petro and Hernández. Aquí puedes leer nuestra cobertura en español.

Platforms: Petro has called for a halt to oil exploration, a shift toward developing other industries, an expansion of social programs and higher taxes on the rich. Hernández has promised “total austerity” and a clampdown on corruption.

Notable: Colombia will also elect its first Afro-Colombian woman vice president. One of the hopefuls, Marelen Castillo, was virtually unknown just months ago.

Backdrop: Amid the election, the rise of armed groups is threatening to once again tear Colombia apart.

Credit…Altaf Qadri/Associated Press

Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

In India, a country that is historically undernourished, many people are now gaining more weight, and police officers are no exception. But in the island territory of Andaman and Nicobar, the police have declared creamy curries, oily paneer and carb-rich dosas Enemy No. 1. Instead, they have embraced diet discipline and physical fitness in the ranks.

Living in the world’s oldest society, the Japanese film director Chie Hayakawa had a question for her mother’s older friends: If the government sponsored a euthanasia program for people 75 and over, would they consent to it?

Such a world — dystopian to many — is the setting for Hayakawa’s first feature-length film, “Plan 75,” which won a special distinction at the Cannes Film Festival this month. Most of the people she asked found it to be an attractive option that would ensure they wouldn’t burden their children.

Close to one-third of Japan’s population is 65 or older, and there are more centenarians per capita there than in any other nation. The country has been forced to debate about how it will care for its longest-living citizens. For Hayakawa and many others, a world like the one depicted in her movie feels shockingly plausible.

“She’s just telling it like it is,” said Kaori Shoji, who writes about film and the arts. “She’s telling us: ‘This is where we’re headed, actually.’”

For more, read our full story on Hayakawa and her motivation behind the film.

Credit…Kelly Marshall for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Roscoe Betsill. Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks.

The Sex Lives of African Women” by Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah explores women’s experiences, in their own words.

This week’s pop playlist features songs from Drake, Perfume Genius, the Beths and others.

Play today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Opposite of leave (four letters).

Here are today’s Wordle and Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Matthew Cullen

P.S. The Society of Publishers in Asia announced the Carlos Tejada Award for Excellence in Investigative Reporting, an award renamed in honor of Carlos, our deputy Asia editor, who died in December.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the Jan. 6 hearings.

You can reach Matthew and the team at [email protected].

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