Russia Losing Ground in Ukraine as Putin's Troops Forced to Mount Defense

Russia reportedly lost more ground in Ukraine on Wednesday while failing to make any "significant advances" in its ongoing offensive in the country, according to a U.S. think tank.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), which focuses on research and analysis regarding defense and foreign affairs, and provides daily updates on the war in Ukraine, said in its May 11 assessment that Ukrainian forces took further ground northeast of Kharkiv.

"The Ukrainian counteroffensive north of Kharkiv City has forced Russian troops onto the defensive and necessitated reinforcement and replenishment efforts intended to prevent further Ukrainian advances towards the Russian border," the ISW said.

"Russian efforts along the Southern Axis and in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts remain similarly stalled, and Russian forces have not made any significant gains in the face of continued successful Ukrainian defenses."

Russia Reportedly Losing Ground
Russia reportedly lost more ground in Ukraine on Wednesday while failing to make any "significant advances" in its ongoing offensive in the country, according to a U.S. think tank. Above, Ukrainian servicemen ride on an armored personnel carrier on a road near Petrivske village, in Kharkiv region, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, on May 9, 2022. AFP via Getty Images/Anatolii Stepanov

The Russian offensive in Ukraine is currently concentrated in the eastern Donbas region, but recent reports from the ISW indicate that Russian President Vladimir Putin's troops have faced several consecutive days of either ground losses or little to no progress in gaining ground.

An ISW map with terrain control assessments shows that Russia still holds a stretch of land in the east of Ukraine as of May 11, particularly in the self-declared pro-Russia separatist states, but the Ukrainian counteroffensive is chipping away at some areas along the edge of the Russian-held territory.

Newsweek reached out to Russia's Defense Ministry seeking confirmation of the May 11 ISW report. The Twitter account for the Russian Defense Ministry has not posted a briefing on the war since April 26, and Newsweek was not immediately able to access the ministry's website to view any potential updates that were issued more recently.

The May 11 ISW report noted that additional key takeaways for the conflict included efforts from Russian forces to consolidate their positions in the western Kherson region and push into the Mykolaiv region. It also said that there were continued attempts by Russia to encircle Ukrainian positions in the Severodonetsk-Rubizhne-Lysychansk area, even though no Russian advances in the initiative were confirmed.

The reported progress for the Ukrainian counteroffensive on Wednesday followed several days of similar assessments. The ISW said on May 10 that the Ukrainian forces north of the city of Kharkiv continued to successfully push Russian forces back toward the Russian border, and it said on May 9 that Russian troops continued to "display low morale and poor discipline as fighting in many areas has stalled out against Ukrainian resistance."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also said during a video address Tuesday evening that his troops made progress in pushing Russian troops from several villages near Kharkiv but warned his people against spreading "excessive emotions" and expecting weekly or daily victories, according to the Independent.

Still, Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, the director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, said Wednesday that Russia and Ukraine appeared to be locked in a stalemate. He added that he believes if Russia doesn't officially declare war on Ukraine and mobilize, the stalemate will last for a while and he doesn't anticipate either side decisively breaking out.

Experts—including Yuri Zhukov, an associate professor at the University of Michigan, and Michael Kimmage, a history professor at The Catholic University of America and former member of the secretary's policy planning staff at the State Department—have said that Putin could be granted unprecedented powers over Russia if he officially declared war.

Newsweek reached out to the defense ministries of Russia and Ukraine for comment.

Update 5/12/22, 11:45 a.m. ET: This story was updated with additional information and background.