Russia has claimed to have taken its first Ukrainian city one week after first launching the invasion.
Igor Konashenkov, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson, said troops had tasks “complete control” of the strategically significant port city of Kherson, near the Black Sea coast.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s office said late on Wednesday fighting was still ongoing around the port city of Kherson. It told the Associated Press it could not comment on the situation there while the battle was still in play.
The mayor of Kherson, Igor Kolykhayev, said Russian troops were on the street on Wednesday and had forced their way into the city council building.
After meeting with the armed troops, Mr Kolykhayev announced several conditions that would allow the city to remain, at least ostensibly, under Ukraine control.
In a Facebook post, the mayor said residents will only be allowed outside in the day and could not be in the company of more than one other person. He warned residents not to provoke the Russian troops and to stop at their command.
Cars will only be allowed to enter the city to bring food and medicine and other essentials. They must drive at minimum speed and be prepared to stop to be searched by Russian troops, he said.
Mr Kolykhayev added: “Ukrainian flag above us. And to keep it the same, these requirements must be met. I have nothing else to offer yet.”
The mayor said there were no Ukrainian forces in Kherson.
Kherson, a city of 300,000, is strategically located on the banks of the Dnieper River near where it flows into the Black Sea. In Russian control, the city could unblock a water canal and restore water supplies to the Crimean Peninsula.
Ukraine earlier played down reports that the city had fallen into Russian hands after Major General Konashenkov said Vladimir Putin’s soldiers were in “complete control”.
Maj Gen Konashenkov said talks between the Russian commanders, city administrations and regional authorities on how to maintain order in the city were under way. He said the city’s civilian infrastructure, essential facilities and transport are operating as usual and that there are no shortages of food or essential goods.
A senior US defense official said on Wednesday they had seen claims that Russia had taken Kherson as well as Ukrainian claims on the contrary.
“Our view is that Kherson is very much a contested city at this point,” said the official on Wednesday evening.
Elsewhere in Ukraine the war raged on as Russian offensives continued against several cities. Kharkiv, the country’s second-biggest city, suffered heavy bombardment.
A blast in Kyiv caused minor damage to the central train station where thousands were being evacuated. Russian forces continued an assault on the southeastern port city of Mariupol that the mayor there said was relentless.
In the northern city of Chernihiv, two cruise missiles hit a hospital, according to the Ukrainian UNIAN news agency.
An investigation into alleged war crimes in Ukraine was opened by an International Criminal Court prosecutor after referrals from 39 allied countries.