Your Tuesday Briefing

After meeting with Vladimir Putin yesterday, Karl Nehammer, the Austrian chancellor, said he feared that the Russian president intended to drastically intensify the brutality of the war. “The battle being threatened cannot be underestimated in its violence,” Nehammer said.

The meeting came as Russia was moving thousands of troops and vehicles eastward — including infantry, combat-helicopter support units and artillery — in preparation for an assault on the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, according to the Pentagon. Civilians, meanwhile, fled westward.

Satellite images showed Russian military vehicles moving toward the Ukrainian city of Izium, which could serve as the staging ground for the offensive. The next phase of the war will look very different from the battles fought in and around Ukrainian cities. The flatter, more open countryside of Donbas may favor Russia’s armored units and air superiority.

Related: The Biden administration wants to see Putin held accountable for war crimes. But U.S. policy has long opposed cooperating with The Hague for fear of Americans’ being charged there.

A mother killed by a sniper while walking with her family to fetch a thermos of tea. A woman held as a sex slave, naked except for a fur coat and locked in a potato cellar before being executed. Two sisters dead in their home, their bodies left slumped on the floor for weeks.

These are the scenes documented by Times reporters and photographers who spent more than a week in Bucha, the city on Kyiv’s outskirts that was occupied by Russian troops for a month.

The evidence suggests the Russians killed recklessly and sometimes sadistically, in part out of revenge. When a defeated and demoralized Russian Army finally retreated from Bucha, it left behind a grim tableau: bodies of dead civilians strewn on streets, in basements and in backyards, many with gunshot wounds to their heads, some with their hands tied behind their backs.

Quotable: “They shot everything,” said Anatoly Rodchenko, a retired high school physics teacher. “They shot at houses. They shot a woman on the street. They shot at dogs.”

Ahead of a second-round runoff, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, hopes to build a “dam” of mainstream voters to prevent Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader, from ascending to the presidency. Many may come from the base of the leftist veteran Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came third in the first round with 22 percent of the vote.

After five years of Macron as president, Le Pen has emerged stronger than ever. She has softened her image in a successful process of “undemonizing” and has focused relentlessly on ordinary voters’ economic hardship. That message has resonated even more broadly as energy prices has spiked because of the war in Ukraine.

At a campaign stop yesterday, Le Pen said that the dam was a dishonest strategy to win an election. “It’s a way to save yourself when you don’t deserve it,” she said. Macron, meanwhile, tried to remind voters of the extremist roots of Le Pen’s party, referring to it by its old name, the National Front.

Macron’s strategy: Macron has shifted rightward during his presidency, toughening France’s stance on immigration, empowering the police and combating Islamist extremism. Many working French also believe that his economic policies unfairly favor the rich and have left them more adrift.

In 1890, a mustachioed eccentric released a few dozen European starlings into New York City. His supposed goal? Introduce all the bird species mentioned in William Shakespeare’s plays to America.

Except that it wasn’t. This commonplace story is mostly fictional, researchers say. What else have scientists and naturalists gotten wrong about the European starling’s narrative? And is there more to this bird known mostly as an invasive pest?

In school board meetings and libraries across the U.S., parents regularly call for the removal of books they deem inappropriate. Last year, book-banning efforts surged to their highest level in two decades, according to the American Library Association.

Many of the targeted books were by, or about, Black and L.G.B.T.Q. people. Among the most challenged, according to the A.L.A., were “Gender Queer,” an illustrated memoir by Maia Kobabe that discusses coming out as gender nonconforming, and “The Hate U Give,” a young adult novel by Angie Thomas about a Black teenager whose friend is shot by a police officer.

Part of the reason for the surge is that parents use social media to circulate lists and coordinate banning efforts. And librarians say they’ve noticed more heavy-handed tactics from government officials and others, such as political pressure over certain books (like Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”) and legal threats against the people who choose reading material.

Read the A.L.A.’s list of the 10 most targeted books.

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