In a major success for Ukraine’s counter-offensive, Russia announced on 10 September that it was withdrawing its troops from the Balakliya and Izyum regions. Ukraine said its forces were working to take control of towns and villages around the strategic hub of Izyum from Russian troops on 11 September.
Videos posted online show civilians in the liberated areas welcoming the Ukrainian forces with enthusiasm. Russian forces fled the strategic town of Izyum in the east just five days after a new Ukrainian offensive through the Kharkiv region.
Reshaping the War: The Ukrainian Offensive
A Ukrainian offensive in the country’s northeast has reshaped what had become a grinding war of attrition. Ukrainian troops have taken the eastern city of Izium, a strategically important railway hub.
The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed on Saturday that it had pulled its forces out of Izium to “regroup”. The remaining residents of a prewar population of 40,000 celebrated the liberation from Russian control.
Ukraine’s capture of Izium could represent a turning point in the war, dwarfed only by Russia’s humiliating defeat around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in the spring.
The Ukrainian offensive in the north has dealt a serious blow to its Russian foes, and the country’s morale has been lifted. The offensive comes ahead of winter, when front lines are expected to freeze and a global energy crisis could strain the West’s support for Ukraine.
The southern offensive might appear to have been a feint, but the northeast offensive shows that Ukraine has a manpower advantage and can use it effectively.
In the six-month-old war in Ukraine, Russia has had more manpower and ammunition, saturating Ukrainian positions with bone-shattering artillery barrages and steadily advancing with lines of troops despite often horrific casualties.
The Russian military has sent a third army corps toward Izium, though the move appears to have come too late.
Russian forces seized Izium in the war’s early months, leaving strategically important Ukrainian cities trapped in a slowly closing pocket as the Russian troops advanced. But the Russian advances stalled over the summer, as its exhausted units paused to rest and tried to replenish their ranks.
With Izium now under Ukrainian control, the dynamic in the east has been reshaped. The Ukrainians will likely have to process hundreds of Russian prisoners captured during their sweep across the northeast, while also distributing highly prized Russian military equipment.