List of Russian city deputies calling for Putin’s resignation rises to nearly 50, local official says

An abandoned Russian armored vehicle is seen near a village on the outskirts of Izyum on September 11. (Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images)

As a CNN team on the ground surveyed the town of Izium, the signs of Ukrainian victory after months of Russian occupation are clear.

Burned-out tanks and trucks bearing the Russian signature “Z” symbol lay by the side of the road, gutted and red with new rust. A collapsed bridge was covered with signs warning of landmines. Further on, the wreckage of a car was left next to a destroyed gas station surrounded by bomb debris.

Izium has now been “liberated”, along with almost the entire Kharkiv region, a Ukrainian military source told CNN. The town is a huge strategic loss for the Russian military, which used it as a key base and supply route for its forces in eastern Ukraine, and shows the speed and scale of the counter-offensive ultra-fast from Ukraine in the northeast.

Work is still underway to completely secure the city center. The Ukrainians seek to capture some Russian soldiers still hidden and all those who worked with them during the occupation. The city also remains in a complete information blackout, with no telephone or data signal – a tactic used by the Russians in the occupied territories.

From what the CNN team has seen, residents are relieved to see their town back in Ukrainian hands.

Although the streets of Izium were largely quiet, residents sometimes ventured out of their homes and saluted passing CNN vehicles or military trucks, and shook hands with any Ukrainian soldiers they encountered.

But at the same time, fear of the Russians still grips the city. Most residents approached by CNN were too scared to speak freely about what had happened there in recent months.

A couple in their 50s agreed to speak, using only their first names. They celebrated the Ukrainian victory over the city, a resident named Valeriy said, calling it “balm for the soul”.

“We prayed to God to be released without a fight and without blood. And it happened,” he said.

The distant sound of shelling is a constant reminder that despite the impressive gains of this counter-offensive, the war is not yet won – and many parts of Ukraine are still within range of the heavy weapons arsenal of Russia.

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Christi C. Elwood