Here’s what Russian soldiers left behind when they withdrew from Izyum

A Ukrainian soldier stands on top of an abandoned Russian tank near a village on the outskirts of Izyum, in the Kharkiv region, on Sept. 11.
A Ukrainian soldier stands on top of an abandoned Russian tank near a village on the outskirts of Izyum, in the Kharkiv region, on Sept. 11. (Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images)

The Ukrainian counteroffensive in the country’s northeast has forced Russia to surrender a wide swath of territory that it spent months, and many lives, capturing.

Videos and photos posted on social media have provided a glimpse into what Russian troops left behind during their hasty retreat.

In videos verified by The Washington Post, Ukrainian troops have documented war machines in various states, from combat-ready tanks to vehicles in need of repair. In some cases, Ukrainian forces have obliterated Russian weapons, leaving smoldering vehicles to be discovered by the advancing forces. Russian forces may have also damaged their own weapons as they retreated.

Many of the discoveries were clustered around Izyum, a strategic city southeast of Kharkiv positioned along transportation routes that had been key to Russian movements. The city also became an important intake for armored vehicles in need of maintenance, said Justin Bronk, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.

Voronezh

BELARUS

RUSSIA

Chernihiv

Area held

by Russia-

backed

separatists

before

Feb. 2022

Belgorod

Sumy

Valuyki

Kyiv

Kharkiv

LUHANSK

KHARKIV

Cherkasy

Slovyansk

Luhansk

UKRAINE

Bakhmut

Dnipro

Donetsk

Kirovohrad

DONETSK

Zaporizhzhia

ZAPORIZHZHIA

Rostov-

on-Don

Mariupol

Mykolaiv

Melitopol

KHERSON

MOL.

Kherson

Odessa

RUSSIA

Kerch

CRIMEA

Krasnodar

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

100 MILES

ROM.

Novorossiysk

Sevastopol

Black Sea

Control areas as of Sept. 11

Sources: Institute for the Study of War, AEI’s Critical Threats Project

Ukrainian reclaimed territory

through counteroffensives

Russian-held

areas

Area held

by Russia-

backed

separatists

before

Feb. 2022

Voronezh

BELARUS

RUSSIA

Chernihiv

Belgorod

Sumy

Kyiv

Kharkiv

Poltava

Cherkasy

Kramatorsk

Dnipro

Uman

Zaporizhzhia

Rostov-

on-Don

Mariupol

Melitopol

Mykolayiv

Kherson

RUSSIA

Odessa

Crimea

Krasnodar

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Novorossiysk

Sevastopol

100 MILES

Control areas as of Sept. 11

Sources: Institute for the Study of War, AEI’s Critical Threats Project

Ukrainian reclaimed territory

through counteroffensives

Russian-held

areas

Area held

by Russia-

backed

separatists

before

Feb. 2022

RUSSIA

BEL.

Chernihiv

Belgorod

Sumy

Kyiv

Kharkiv

Poltava

Cherkasy

Dnipro

Zaporizhzhia

Rostov-

on-Don

Mariupol

Melitopol

Mykolayiv

Kherson

RUS.

Odessa

Crimea

Sevastopol

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

100 MILES

Black Sea

Control areas as of Sept. 11

Sources: Institute for the Study of War

“The abandonment started from the Russian side pretty quickly once it became clear that the highways and the railway connection north were cut off,” Bronk said.

Video posted by the Ukrainian military on Sept. 11 shows abandoned Russian tanks near Izyum, after Ukrainian forces recaptured parts of the Kharkiv region. (Video: Telegram)

Video filmed by approaching Ukrainian forces on the edge of Izyum is notable for what it shows — and doesn’t show.

The state of the equipment at the site is unclear, though much of it appears to lack significant damage. “You and I get a tank,” someone can be heard saying. “We all get a tank each.”

After Russia captured Izyum, video posted online and satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies showed military vehicles at the same site — indicating it may have been used as an equipment hub.

In the video posted Sunday, several tanks and armored personnel carriers are dispersed throughout a wooded area. They appear to be assembled in a circular formation, allowing 360 degrees of visibility, said retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, a former commander of U.S. Army Europe. It’s possible Russian forces stopped for fuel or were waiting for a mission when they fled, Hodges said.

Hodges, who examined the video, said it appears that the Russians withdrew hastily, leaving behind tanks that show no outward signs of being sabotaged to prevent their use by the Ukrainians. The Russians may have left on foot or in other vehicles in an attempt to keep a lower profile as they fled.

“If you get out of the tank to escape, it’s because you think the tank is a target,” Hodges said.

Vehicles abandoned in serviceable condition are a boon to Ukrainian forces, who have suffered their own losses with a much smaller inventory still reliant on Soviet-era systems. While their crews work quickly to repair their own stocks, Ukrainian forces can also absorb newer Russian vehicles into their ranks because their design is familiar and they use ammunition already in circulation.

The equipment left behind in the video amounts to about a tank company, Hodges said, which is typically outfitted with about 10 or 11 tanks.

Several of them are variants of the T-80, a high-powered tank prone to breakdowns, Bronk said.

“Some of them are no doubt reasonably functional,” he said. “You would expect at a major staging point that there would be quite a lot of equipment that is there specifically because it was damaged or needed servicing.”

Video that circulated on Sept. 11 showed an abandoned 2S19 MSTA-S artillery vehicle on a street in Izyum. (Video: Twitter)

Another video, taken along a street in central Izyum, shows a marooned 2S19 Msta self-powered howitzer. The system does not have obvious signs of being disabled.

Other pictures taken in Izyum show heavier damage to Russian military equipment, indicating they were hit in battle. One armored vehicle can be seen at a gas station in the city with bullet holes, burn marks and deflated tires.

Video shared online after Ukraine's capture of Izyum shows the remnants of a TOS-1A a multiple rocket launcher on a street in the city. (Video: TikTok)

Ukrainian forces published a video showing the husk of a TOS-1A, a multiple-rocket launcher, using its nickname “Solntsepyok.”

The soldier knew the nickname as well.

“Oh, sunshine!” he says in the video.

The system is capable of launching thermobaric munitions, which first distribute a fuel aerosol before another charge ignites the cloud, helping cause a greater explosion used to target fortified positions. It can be an indiscriminate and catastrophic weapon for people near its target.

Oryx, an open-source analyst site, has documented only five TOS-1As in Russian stocks that have been damaged, destroyed or captured.

As Ukrainian soldiers took stock of weaponry left behind in Izyum, officials said they are still pushing farther into Russian-held areas. On Monday, the Ukrainian military said it had taken a further 20 settlements in 24 hours.

Laris Karklis contributed to this report.

Loading...
Loading...