Trenches Guard Route in and out of Kharkiv

Soldiers patrol a tight-knit network of trenches and fortifications at the eastern entrance to Kharkiv, digging themselves in to repel attacks and keep the checkpoint in Ukrainian hands.

READ MORE: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says victory in his country’s ongoing war with Russia will ultimately come through a diplomatic settlement.

“The victory will be difficult, it will be bloody and in battle, but its end will be in diplomacy. I am very convinced of this,” Zelenskyy said in a Ukrainian television interview late Friday. “There are things that we can't bring to an end without sitting at the negotiation table.”

The Ukraine leader also said his country is attempting to recover fighters who surrendered to Russian forces after weeks of fighting at the Azovstal steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol.

“Everything will depend on (the responsibilities) the U.N., the Red Cross and the Russian Federation took on themselves, that they (the fighters) all will be in safety, waiting for one or the other exchange format,” he said. He said Ukraine’s intelligence service is making preparations “for a dialogue and an exchange."

Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine nearly three months ago, on February 24.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that both the Azovstal steel plant and Mariupol have been "fully liberated," according to a statement Friday by Russia's Defense Ministry.

There was no immediate confirmation from Ukraine that Mariupol was fully under Russian control.

The port city is the scene of the war's bloodiest siege, with Russian forces bombarding it for nearly three months. Much of Mariupol has been reduced to rubble, and more than 20,000 civilians are feared dead.

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