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The Fight for Izium

March 30, 2022 – Sky News Correspondent John Sparks travels to the outskirts of the city of Izium in eastern Ukraine where he meets Ukrainian troops in a surprisingly relaxed mood as they prepare to face the Russian military.

May 6, 2022 – The 93rd Independent Kholodnyi Yar Mechanized Brigade has been considered legendary since 2014. The brigade fighters participated in all the major battles of the war in the Donbas, including Ilovaisk and the battle for the Donetsk airport. From the first hours of the full-scale invasion of Russia on February 24, 2022, the 93rd brigade attacked the enemies in the Sumy region, fought for Okhtyrka, and liberated Trostianets.

Now the Kholodnyi Yar fighters are fighting in the most difficult area of the war, near Izium. Russian planes, helicopters, the command post of the Russians, and enemy artillery were shot down by them. We visited both the artillerymen and the infantrymen of the brigade. We saw with their own eyes the results of their work, and tell you how they live, fight, what they worry about, and why they think they have the best job on earth.

May 30, 2022 – Sky’s Alex Crawford exclusively reports from the frontline with the Ukrainian 93rd Mechanized Brigade in eastern Ukraine as they position rockets to strike Russian forces near Izium.

June 2, 2022 – «Tank is some real force,» say the tankers of the 3rd Tank Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. They are one of those who stopped the advance of the Russians in the area of Izium. According to the results of one of the battles, the company commander Serhii Ponomarenko was awarded the title «Hero of Ukraine.» In that battle, his 6 tanks fought against 20 enemy tanks. They destroyed 9 enemy units and finished the battle without loss of hardware. There is no competition among Ukrainian tankers who knocked out more Russian tanks. For them, this is not statistics in terms of who knocked out how many vehicles. Because a person’s work stands behind every enemy knocked out the armored vehicle. There is also a common task: kick the occupiers out of Ukraine.

And with every tank lost by the enemy, a few more lives of the Armed Forces of Ukraine fighters are saved. At the same time, tankers admit that there is more adrenaline and excitement when they knock out a tank than when they capture enemy hardware. Among those captured, there are two of the latest Russian T80 tanks. They are already used by Ukrainian tankers, destroying enemy military hardware. After heavy fighting near Izium, a period came when the artillerymen had to work harder. And although now the tankers are lucky to have more rest, they are still preparing for hostilities, especially for the possible Ukrainian advance.

August 9, 2022 – The Carpathian Sich battalion has been at war since 2014. This volunteer formation held some of the most challenging positions in the Donbas region, particularly Pisky village near Donetsk airport. On February 24, 2022, the Sich veterans returned to the war. They fought first in Irpin near Kyiv, and then when they warded Russians off away from the north of Ukraine, the volunteers moved to the east — near Izium. Since they have been in these positions, the front has not moved a single meter of land there. In May, the volunteers finally began formalizing the entire battalion with their own leadership and structure. A separate official unit in the Armed forces.

They do everything in parallel — fighting, advancing a little, and overcoming the army bureaucracy. There is not a single mobilized soldier here. Everyone came voluntarily, so the motivation is at a high level. Because of it, foreigners come here to fight. Now the battalion has citizens from 35 countries. Ukrainian fighters, which returned to defend their homeland from other states interpret for them. The separate rifle battalion jokingly calls itself “ghosts of tillage” — in contrast to «the ghost of Kyiv,» which protected the Ukrainian sky; they protect the land. At the time of the video’s release, the Carpathian Sich went on the counteroffensive near Izium.

August 20, 2022 – A city turned into rubble, a village – destroyed and abandoned by the inhabitants, burnt wheat fields. That’s what can be seen from the window of an SUV with Latvian license plates. A Latvian also drives this car. At the beginning of March 2022, hromadske met an ex-member of the Latvian Seimas Juris Jurašs on the outskirts of the left bank of Kyiv. There Ukrainian capita’s Territorial Defense and the volunteer battalion “Carpathian Sich” were preparing for the alleged Russian attack on the city.

Three months later, we met Juris in the ravines of the southern Kharkiv region, a dozen kilometers from the occupied Izium. From here, the Russians are trying to surround the north of Slovyansk. But Russians can’t do that – the volunteer battalion did not surrender a single meter of land. How does a former MP fight here? What is the most challenging thing for him in this war? Why does Jurašs think that as a volunteer unit fighter, he will bring more benefit to Ukraine than on the diplomatic front? We’ve talked about all this in our interview.

September 11, 2022 – Ukrainian forces have entered the strategic city of Izium after five months of Russian occupation. In its first response to the gains made by Ukrainian forces in the last few days, the Russian Defense Ministry said that “the decision was made to regroup Russian troops” and redirect to Donetsk region.

September 12, 2022 – Ukraine’s armed forces on Saturday released images said to show its troops entering the city of Izium. Izium was a major base for Russian forces in the Kharkiv region. Footage believed to have been filmed by a member of the 25th Airborne Brigade shows soldiers manning barricades on the outskirts of the city, with the Ukraine flag flying.

September 13, 2022 – In the Ukrainian city of Izyum, the country’s blue and yellow flag has just been raised again over the charred city hall, months after Russian tanks barreled in. Gleeful residents rush to a hill near a cell phone tower, the only place in town with a signal, to call relatives to share their good news: the Russians are out. Ukrainian soldiers liberated the eastern city at the weekend as the army reclaimed swathes of territory, part of its rapid counter-offensive to beat back Russian soldiers who invaded February 24.

September 13, 2022 – CNN became the first international television crew to enter Izium since the Ukrainians retook it from Russian forces. Izium has now been “liberated,” along with almost the whole of Kharkiv region, a Ukrainian military source told CNN. CNN’s Sam Kiley reports on why the city is a strategic loss for the Russian military.

September 14, 2022 – CNN national security analyst Beth Sanner explains the significance of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Izium following the city’s liberation from Russian occupation.

September 14, 2022 – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made a surprise visit to Izyum, a newly retaken city in the northeast of Ukraine, which has been left devastated by months of Russian occupation.

September 15, 2022 – The city of Izyium in the south of Kharkiv region was occupied by Russian troops for almost half a year. After number of assaults, artillery barrages, air strikes and bombings, it was fully occupied by Russian forces and their allies at the end of March. It was then that Izium suffered the most, local authorities estimate that 80 percent of the settlement was destroyed and that up to a thousand residents could have died during the heavy shelling of Izium. Somewhat less than 50,000 people lived in the town before the full-scale invasion Russian.

During occupation, approximately 10,000 people remained. Ukrainian troops liberated Izium on the morning of September 10th. Most of the Russians managed to escape to avoid being surrounded. They left a lot of military hardware. Not everyone of the occupants fled. Journalists of hromadske were the first among others to get into the liberated city. Three days after liberation, people here are still shocked that they are finally free. Authors: Nastia Stanko, Kolian Pastyko.

September 15, 2022 – Ukrainian forces have reclaimed large swaths of territory in the Kharkiv region. WSJ’s Stephen Kalin reports from the liberated city of Izium, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to assess damage on Wednesday.

September 15, 2022 – Residents of recaptured towns and villages in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region are trying to put their lives back together after the withdrawal of Russian troops. This is video from the city of Izium on September 14 that was recaptured by Ukrainian troops last week. Ukraine has reclaimed large swaths of territory in the northeast.

September 16, 2022 – A burial site which could contain up to 400 people has been found in the Ukrainian city of Izyum. The discovery followed a successful counterattack by Ukrainian forces to retake hundreds of towns, villages and some cities in the Kharkiv region which had been under Russian control since March and April. Regional police head Volodymyr Tymoshko told the BBC the grave site in the north-eastern city could contain civilians as well as Ukrainian soldiers. “Russia leaves death everywhere,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said, mentioning other reported mass graves found after Russian troops’ withdrawal.

September 20, 2022 – A Ukrainian man said 62 people hid in a basement used as a bomb shelter during World War II. Izyum was captured by Russian forces in March 2022 and retaken by the Ukrainian Army in early September 2022.

September 29, 2022 – The moment Russian troops surrendered to Ukrainian soldiers in Izium has been caught on camera. Loud machine gun fire can be heard as the Ukrainians closed in on a makeshift Russian camp. Footage then shows Russians lying face down with their hands on their heads after they gave into the Ukrainian unit.

October 7, 2022 – Since the beginning of military actions, most doctors have left Izium. Only two dozen doctors of the Izium emergency medical care department remained in the city, which was under occupation, and they dared to work under the gun of the Russian assault rifles. «The more [missile] fly-ins there were, the more shellings there were, the more you wanted to leave, of course. But when you came to the sick or wounded between fly-ins, you understood that they depended only on you, and it all was gone. Somewhere there were shootings, somewhere there were screams, it means somebody’s wounded, somebody’s got to be rescued», says senior paramedic Serhii Botsman, who gathered an ambulance team around him.

In March, when the city was under heavy shellings, and the roads were covered with debris, the ambulance could not pass and medics walked on foot, went down to the basements and asked who needed help. Gradually, the radius of help was increased, running around the city with gurneys and collecting the wounded from the most remote corners of Izium. Later, they were able to repair vehicles damaged by shelling and transport the sick and wounded to a makeshift operating room set up in the basement of the hospital. This is a story about Izium medics who continued to save civilians during the eight months of occupation, refusing to take off their chevrons with the Ukrainian coat of arms.

November 5, 2022 – The village of Kamianka, near Izyum, is a complete ruin and wasteland. The village found itself in the path of a tough and merciless army of Rashists, which advanced on Donbas. In March, one of the most massive tank battles took place here, when our army held back the Russian breakthrough to Slovyansk. At the same time, Russian artillery practically wiped this settlement off the face of the earth. Next – a six-month occupation and stay of the village between two fires. In the end, the Russians did not manage to surround our grouping of troops in the Donbass from the north and break through to Slovyansk. But it cost heavy losses among our defenders. In September, the Ukrainian military liberated the village. More precisely, what was left of him.

What remained were solid ruins, hundreds of abandoned and hungry animals, corpses of local residents who had been lying under the rubble for half a year. Tens of thousands of explosive objects, burning equipment and a feeling of horror. Kamianka is not the only such village on the border between Izyum and the border of Donetsk region, but it is a clear example of what the “Russian peace” and war leave behind. In the next series of the Khashchi project, we tried to convey for you the atmosphere of what was seen in the village in the second week after its release. The material was created within the framework of the “Life of War” project with the support of the Laboratory of Public Interest Journalism and the Institute of Humanities (Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen).

December 21, 2022 – An NBC team spent weeks inside the bombed out city of Izium, Ukraine hearing the stories of those who survived the worst of Russia’s war. Despite relentless bombardment, air strikes, and torture by occupying Russian forces, the people of this once idyllic city are ‘unbowed.’

January 2, 2023 – During the long months of Russian occupation in Izyum, up to sixty people lived in Andriy Pleshan’s cellar. Izium, a town in eastern Ukraine, and home to 45,000 inhabitants before the war, was retaken by Ukrainian forces in mid-September, and has lived in relative peace since, unlike other liberated towns closer to the front line.

January 4, 2023 – During the long months of Russian occupation in Izium, up to sixty people lived in Andriy Pleshan’s cellar. Among them was Nyka, a baby of just two months old at the time whose clothes remain in the basement. “The parents were feeding her baby formula instead of milk,” says Pleshan, who recalls searches carried out by occupying soldiers. “They were looking for bruises on the shoulder, because if you shoot a gun you have that sort of mark.”