Hard-charging Ukrainian armored columns have liberated more villages and reportedly captured hundreds of Russian Federation troops and combat vehicles. This comes as Kyiv’s offensive in the eastern Kharkiv region picked up pace on Sunday, against seemingly crumbling resistance.
Ukrainian tank crews and mechanized infantry squads began posting selfies of themselves on the outskirts of the critical Russian logistics hub Izium on Saturday morning. By the evening, independent Ukrainian media reported that the Ukraine Armed Forces (UAF) had cut off all roads leading out of the city and were moving to secure central regions, although Russian Federation (RF) airborne infantry units were still manning defenses within the perimeter.
Strikes by UAF long-range rockets on critical bridges, combined with a UAF special operations team waiting in ambush on escape roads to the east of Izium, left potentially thousands of Russian troops cut off, Russian military critic Igor Girkin said in a Saturday statement.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense on Saturday afternoon confirmed it was pulling troops out of the town, saying its forces in the area were conducting a “planned redeployment…in good order…in order to carry out operations elsewhere more effectively.” Local officials in the town of Kazachi Lopani, due north of Kharkiv and far from the fighting, reported on Sunday that RF troops had abandoned their positions there as well.
Ukrainian soldiers in comments to news agencies and in hundreds of posts to their own social media accounts painted a picture of a near-rout by RF troops, with multiple ammunition depots and combat vehicles abandoned and captured intact by pursuing UAF units.
A widely shared video from a northern Izium neighborhood showed two UAF soldiers driving through a residential region and past an entire battery – four vehicles – of Russian 152mm self-propelled howitzers parked on the side of the road with hatches open and crews nowhere to be seen.
UAF soldier videos on Saturday displayed dozens of RF prisoners of war, including officers. A video posted on the Realna Voina channel showed nine RF tanks and three RF armored personnel carriers captured by UAF troops at a holding site purportedly in Izium. According to multiple reports, they had been abandoned by Russia’s Fourth Guards Tank Division.
Anton Shekhovtsov, director of the Center of Democratic Integrity, in a Sunday Twitter post said “Only today Ukraine has captured more tanks and howitzers from the Russians than Germany delivered to Ukraine in over six months. Let this sink in.”
Site of fierce and ultimately successful Russian assault battles in April and May, Izium had been a major RF logistics hub. It also became the main support base for RF attacks over the summer in the Sloviansk direction, as part of a top objective for the RF campaign to conquer Ukraine’s Donbas region.
The UAF kicked off its Kharkiv sector offensive on Sep. 6 with the lightning capture of the road nexus town Balakliya. Since then, the UAF has recovered more than 1,000 square kilometers of territory and liberated more than 30 towns and villages.
UAF infantry operating in light vehicles were reportedly on the move north of Kupiansk and heading towards the RF border. A public statement posted on Sep. 11 on the town council website of Veliky Burlik, located some 30 kilometers north of Kupiansk, told residents that “the regular UAF troops will come [to Veliky Burlik] later…right now our soldiers are too busy chasing Russians…to liberate us properly.”
The town advisory said: “It looks like the orcs (RF soldiers) have left us and right now we are in the gray zone.” Residents were also told to stay away from buildings formerly occupied by RF troops, including private homes in the town, due to the risk of the structures being fired on by the UAF.
Wider UAF advances
Ukrainian advances were also reported elsewhere along the 2,000-kilometer fighting front. Ukraine’s Army General Staff (AGS) on Sunday reported progress in the Donbas sector where, UAF troops had reportedly advanced north and engaged RF defenses around the town of Lyman.
Multiple soldier web posts and social media content seemed to show UAF troops in strong numbers to the south of the city in the villages Yampil and Dibrova, as well as nearby woods. A statement published by the Lyman village council said: “Russian troops are still defending (here). We haven’t yet seen our (Ukrainian) flag. We will have to wait a bit.”
Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk regional defense administration, claimed in a Saturday statement that UAF troops had been sighted by residents of Lysychansk, almost 20 kilometers to the east. RF forces captured Lysychansk during bitter fighting in late June and early July. There was no outside confirmation of Haidai’s claim.
Joint Command South (JCS), the UAF headquarters commanding operations in the Mykolaiv-Kherson sector, said that UAF troops had advanced “dozens of kilometers” to multiple locations. Unlike the blitzkrieg-paced attacks in the Kharkiv region, the Kherson sector attacks were more locally focused with the main objective of destroying forward RF troops and defensive positions, said JCS spokeswoman Nataliya Gumeniuk in a statement.
The UAF attacks would continue and “good news is coming,” she said.
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