Russian forces are continuing their attempted push through Ukraine from multiple directions, and seized Kherson on Thursday, the first major Ukrainian city they control.
Moscow's victory in the southern city comes amid devastating attacks a week after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a "special military operation" in Ukraine, while Ukrainians, led by President Volodymyr Zelensky, are putting up "stiff resistance", according to United States officials.
Russian forces have bombarded Ukraine military facilities across the country, including the capital, Kyiv, and its second city of Kharkiv.
Russian troops were in "all parts" of Kherson, Ukrainian regional official Gennady Lakhuta said.
After a three-day siege that left Kherson short of food and medicine, and struggling to collect and bury its dead, Lakhuta also announced he was in talks with "armed guests".
The second round of talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations started on Thursday in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, a national park in Belarus near its border with Poland.
Ukraine intends to "hold its ground" at the second meeting, said Alexey Arestovich, adviser to the head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office.
The second round of talks may deal mostly with political issues, such as the status of Ukraine, rather than the situation "on the ground", said Ivan Konovalov, director of the Fund for Assistance to 21st Century Technologies.
In the first round of talks, the Russian delegation insisted Ukraine acknowledge Crimea's status as part of Russia, which Ukraine had refused.
"Crimea is part of Russia and it's nonnegotiable," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Al-Jazeera.
Stalled elsewhere, Russian troops continue to make significant advances on the southern front, with troops breaking through in Kherson－opening the path west and north－and besieging the larger strategically vital port city of Mariupol.
Vadym Boychenko, mayor of Mariupol, reported hours of punishing bombardment. The city is now without light, water or heating as temperatures hover around freezing.