“Despite struggling to break through Ukrainian defences and build momentum, Russia highly likely intends to proceed beyond Izium to capture the cities of Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk,” the Ministry of Defence said in its daily assessment of the war in Ukraine on Wednesday.
It added that “capturing these locations would consolidate Russian military control of the north-eastern Donbas and provide a staging point for their efforts to cut off Ukrainian forces in the region”.
Izium, which is occupied by Russian forces, lies around 70 kilometres south-east of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.
As the city sits on Russia’s northern axis of advance, it could be a staging area for an attempt to cut off and defeat the bulk of Ukraine’s soldiers in eastern Ukraine. This in turn would prevent reinforcements from being sent to other key Ukrainian cities such as Kyiv.
Decoy mannequins in uniforms
However, Western officials say Russia’s troop advances have already stalled in the Donbas region.
This is partly due to heavy losses in their failed attempt to capture Kyiv, as well as fierce resistance from Ukrainian troops armed with British and American weapons.
Russia’s army also appears to have been duped by the Ukrainian army’s diversionary tactics – recent video footage of a Russian artillery strike on a trench near Izium showed it was manned by decoy mannequins in uniforms.
Another video, posted online by Rob Lee, a military analyst at King’s College London, showed the moment a Russian artillery strike landed short of a Ukrainian trench in the same area.
“The position looks well-fortified and the soldiers are likely underground. Not clear whether these strikes are particularly effective without a ground assault,” the analyst observed on Twitter.
Comment: I am impressed by the sheer number of Russian bots, IO people and “surrender now!” people here on this place of contemplation. Why they waste their time in this little place run by a wounded old man is a mystery. pl