Russian forces left the war-scarred city last week as Ukraine pressed forward in a sweeping counteroffensive that has reclaimed vast swathes of territory in the country’s northeastern Kharkiv region.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, has visited Izyum, days after his country’s troops retook the city during an ongoing counteroffensive against Russian forces in the northeastern part of the country.
Ukraine says it has seized some 8,000 square kilometres (4,970 square miles) of territory in the country since the beginning of the month, most in the country’s northeastern Kharkiv region.
Prosecutors said they had found six bodies bearing traces of torture in recently retaken villages in the region, and announced the formation of investigative teams.
Following Zelenskyy’s arrival to Izyum on Wednesday, the Ukrainian flag was raised in front of the burned-out city hall building in the largely devastated town.
“The view is very shocking but it is not shocking for me … because we began to see the same pictures from Bucha, from the first deoccupied territories … so the same destroyed buildings, killed people,” Zeleneskyy told reporters.
The town of Bucha, near Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, was the site where bodies of civilians, many of them tortured, were found lying in the streets in March, following the withdrawal of Russian forces.
This handout picture taken and released by the Ukrainian Presidential press service on September 14, 2022 shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visiting the recaptured city of Izyum [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/AFP]
Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Kharkiv, said the loss of Izyum was a “huge blow” to Russia.
“Izyum is a logisitical hub … and it is from there that Russia was supplying its troops that are further east in the Donbas region … around places like Kramatorsk and Sloviansk,” Abdel-Hamid said.
“It [Izyum’s capture] is certainly the most significant win for the Ukrainians since their counteroffensive started, and by the same breath is the most significant loss for the Russians,” she added.
However, Russia said on Wednesday its forces were hitting back on areas taken back by Ukraine in Kharkiv with “massive strikes”, claiming losses to Ukrainian military servicemen and hardware.
In another update, Russia said it had captured dozens of Ukrainian soldiers in the southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.
The Ukrainian official in charge of the eastern Donetsk region, partially controlled by pro-Moscow separatists since 2014, said Russian forces had attacked the entire front-line region during the past 24 hours.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, the Donetsk governor, said one civilian had been killed and again urged all others to leave, describing the order as a “matter of life and death”.
The accounts could not be independently verified.
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