Russia abandons Ukraine bastion in apparent collapse after Kyiv severs supply line

KYIV: Moscow abandoned its main bastion in northeastern Ukraine on Saturday, a sudden apparent collapse of one of the war’s principal front lines after Ukrainian forces moved to encircle the area in a shock advance. 

The state-run TASS news agency quoted Russia’s defence ministry as saying it had ordered troops to leave the area around the city of Izium in Kharkiv province, saying they would be sent to reinforce operations elsewhere in neighbouring Donetsk.

The announcement came hours after Ukrainian troops captured the city of Kupiansk further north, the sole railway hub supplying Russia’s entire frontline across northeastern Ukraine. That left thousands of Russian troops abruptly cut off from supplies across an entire stretch of front that has seen some of the most intense battles of the war.

Ukrainian forces have recaptured dozens of towns and villages held by Russia for months, since bursting through the frontline earlier this week. Early on Saturday, Ukrainian officials posted photos of their troops raising the country’s blue and yellow flag in front of city hall in Kupiansk at dawn.

“To achieve the stated goals of the Special Military Operation for the liberation of Donbas, it was decided to regroup the Russian troops located in the districts of Balakliia and Izium for the purpose of increasing efforts in the Donetsk direction,” TASS quoted Russia’s defence ministry as saying.

Ukrainian officials stopped short of confirming that they had recaptured Izium, but President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff posted a picture on social media of grapes. The word “Izium” means “raisin” in Ukrainian and Russian.