Ukraine says it has retaken territory from Russian forces

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian military commanders said Friday, May 12, 2023, that their troops had recaptured more territory from Russian forces at the scene of the war’s longest and bloodiest battle, for the eastern city of Bakhmut, but it wasn’t clear if this marked the start of Kyiv’s long-expected counteroffensive.

Russia’s Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said Ukrainian forces had stepped up attacks north of the region while denying speculation by Russian military bloggers that the Kyiv forces had achieved “defense breakthroughs.”

The two kilometers of territory that Ukrainian forces south of Bakhmut retook this week represented a significant gain and will protect an important supply chain, according to commanders of Ukraine’s 3rd Separate Assault Brigade, a special forces unit that led the attack.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he met with the top military commanders Friday, noting that Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi reported his forces “stopped the enemy and even pushed him back in some directions.”

Sense of defeat

In his nightly address to the Ukrainian people, Zelenskyy praised his troops and noted the low morale of the Russian forces.

“The occupiers are already mentally prepared for defeat. They have already lost this war in their minds,” he said. “We must push them every day so that their sense of defeat turns into their retreat, their mistakes, their losses.”

In a statement on Telegram on Friday, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar confirmed that Ukrainian forces gained ground around Bakhmut, reiterating statements from military commanders earlier this week.

In Washington, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the US has assessed that Bakhmut remains contested territory.

“Ukrainians have not given up their defense of Bakhmut and the Russians haven’t given up their attempts to take Bakhmut,” Kirby said. “Every single day, the lines change back and forth. I mean, sometimes block by block.”

The US maintains that Bakhmut has limited strategic value but that Russia has absorbed an enormous loss of troops and weaponry in the battle for the former salt-mining town that has been grinding on for eight months.


Ukrainian military officials have dismissed speculation that the fighting and forward movement in Bakhmut signaled that its anticipated counteroffensive was underway. Zelenskyy said in remarks broadcast Thursday that Kyiv was delaying the campaign because it lacks enough Western weapons. Some saw the comments as designed to keep Russia guessing about Ukraine’s next move. (AP)