Ukrainian forces gained full control of Kharkov on Sunday after street fighting with Russian troops in the country’s second-largest city, the local governor said.
“Kharkiv is completely under our control,” the head of the regional government, Oleg Sinegubov, said on the messaging app Telegram, adding that the army drove out Russian troops during a “cleanup operation”.
Earlier on Sunday, he said Russian light vehicles had entered the city and fighting broke out in the streets.
An AFP correspondent in the city heard machine gun fire and explosions.
Sinegubov said Russian troops were “absolutely demoralized”.
He said Russian troops left their vehicles “in the middle of the road” and groups of five surrendered to the Ukrainian army.
“As soon as they see at least one representative of the armed forces, they surrender,” Sinegubov said.
He said “dozens” of Russian soldiers have already surrendered.
“The captured Russian fighters speak of complete exhaustion and demoralization, they have no connection with the central command, they do not understand and do not know what they are going to do next,” the governor of Kharkov said.
“Since the start of the attack on Ukraine, they have been denied food and water,” he added.
“As they leave the positions, Russian fighters try to hide among the civilian population and ask people for clothes and food.”
Ukraine says Russia will meet
Earlier on Sunday, Ukraine said it had agreed to talks with Russia after four days of conflict, when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his defense chiefs to put nuclear “deterrence forces” on the alert.
The conflict has already killed dozens of civilians, forced hundreds of thousands to flee and made Moscow a global pariah.
The office of President Volodymyr Zelensky said a Ukrainian delegation will meet the Russians at the border with Belarus, which has allowed Russian troops to attack Ukraine.
The meeting will take place near Chernobyl – the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.
“The politicians agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would meet with the Russian one without conditions,” Zelensky’s office said in a statement after the president spoke with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko.
As Western countries lined up to send weapons to Ukraine and impose increasingly tough sanctions, Putin ordered his defense chiefs to mobilize the country’s nuclear “deterrence forces.”
Putin accused western countries of taking “unfriendly” steps against his country.
Ukraine has reported 198 civilian deaths, including three children, since the invasion began.
The UN has set the civilian toll at 64.
“Last night in Ukraine was brutal,” Zelensky said.
“They fight against everyone. They fight against all living things – against kindergartens, against residential buildings and even against ambulances.”