VLADIMIR Putin's troops have begun abandoning another major city in the face of the lightning Ukrainian counter-strike it is claimed.
Russian forces are said to be pulling out from Melitopol in Ukraine's southern Zaporizhzhia region and heading toward Moscow-annexed Crimea in a humiliating blow for Kremlin.
The city's pre-occupation mayor Ivan Fedorov wrote on Telegram that columns of military equipment were reported at a checkpoint in Chonhar, a village marking the boundary between the Crimean peninsula and the Ukrainian mainland.
Melitopol, an area half the size of Wales, has been occupied since early March at the beginning of Putin's war with Ukraine.
Capturing it would give Kyiv an opportunity to disrupt Russian supply lines between the south and the eastern Donbas region, the two major areas where Moscow-backed forces hold territory.
Meanwhile, Russian forces were also withdrawn from the northeastern region of Kharkiv including the town of two miles from Russia seized on the first day of the war.
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Last week Putin's forces abandoned the key city of Izium in the Kharkiv province.
In the newly freed village of Chkalovske in the Kharkiv region, Svitlana Honchar said the Russians' departure was sudden and swift.
She said: "They left like the wind. They were fleeing by any means they could.
"Some Russians appeared to have been left behind in the hasty retreat. They were trying to catch up".
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It comes as Russian soldiers are said to be surrendering en masse in a humiliating blow as Kyiv's troops are advancing.
Dramatic footage from the frontline shows troops lying on the ground as they give up with Ukraine estimated to have reclaimed the majority of Russian-occupied territory, some 6000 square kilometres.
Some of the Russian tyrant's demoralised troops were seen fleeing across the border on bikes while others have even shot or blown themselves up rather than face battle.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials have released footage showing Kyiv's troops burning Russian flags and inspecting abandoned, charred tanks.
In one video, border guards tore down a poster that read, "We are one people with Russia."
Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar said Kyiv is trying to persuade even more Russian soldiers to give up, launching shells filled with flyers ahead of their advance.
The flyers read: "Russians use you as cannon fodder. Your life doesn't mean anything for them.
"You don't need this war. Surrender to Armed Forces of Ukraine".
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukrainian forces were carrying out stabilization measures across the recaptured territory in the south and east, and rounding up Russian troops, saboteurs and alleged collaborators.
Zelenskyy said: "It is very important that together with our troops, with our flag, ordinary, normal life enters the de-occupied territory".
Russia's army has suffered devastating losses in the past week as Ukraine's army has launched a stunning counter-attack.
British intelligence said that one premier force, the 1st Guards Tank Army, had been severely degraded during the invasion, along with the conventional Russian forces designed to counter NATO.
"It will likely take years for Russia to rebuild this capability, the British officials said.
Independent Russian political analyst Abbas Gallyamov said the setback "might renew Russia's interest in peace talks."
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Experts are estimating Russia has lost nearly a billion dollars worth of weapons from the beginning of the Ukrainian offensive on September 6.
As the offensive appears to be on the brink of collapse, Russian troops are abandoning huge quantities of weapons such as tanks on the battlefield.
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