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Context: In a rapid counter-offensive, Ukraine seized the town of Izium in what is being seen as a major setback for Russia in the Kharkiv region. Russia’s Defence Ministry also confirmed that the country’s troops have retreated from the area to “re-group” and “re-deploy”. Izuim had fallen to the Russians on April 1, and has been recaptured over six months later.
The Izium passage:
- Izium is considered the gateway to Donbas region, a Russian-speaking area whose complete capture has been Russia’s key war aim since the beginning of the conflict.
- It is considered a passage to the Black Sea, and thus referred to as the Izium passage by the Russians.
- After capturing Izium, Russia was using it as a launchpad for carrying out attacks in the Donbas region. It was, in fact, Moscow’s main bastion – an operation and commands centre — next to a major frontline in the war.
- After capturing it early in the war, Russia used it as a logistics base to route supplies to its troops on the Donbas frontline.
- The Russian withdrawal from Izuim came hours after Ukrainian troops captured the city of Kupiansk – a key rail hub — farther north. With this, Ukraine is back in control of two key logistics centres.
- Kupiansk was the major railway station supplying Izium formations. First that supply line was cut, and then Russian troops were trapped and forced to retreat leaving behind weapons and ammunition stockpiles.
- The fall of Izium and Kupiansk is a major setback for two reasons.
- First, a loss of face for President Vladimir Putin and a demonstration by Ukraine that it is not only capable of holding out against Russian advances, but is also capable of defeating enemy troops in battle.
- Second, the military setback. It is the first time since World War Two that whole Russian units have been lost.