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Russia has seized initiative in Ukraine conflict – defense minister

Russian troops are firmly in control of the battlefield situation and are steadily pushing back Ukrainian forces, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has said.

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Speaking at the meeting with top Russian commanders on Monday, the minister announced that Moscow had liberated the villages of Pervomayskoe and Novomikhailovka, west and southwest of the Russian city of Donetsk, as well as the settlement of Bogdanovka not far from Artyomovsk, known in Ukraine as Bakhmut. The latter strategic city was captured by Russia last year after months of bitter fighting.

He added that the control zone was also being expanded in Berdychi and Georgievka, north and west of Donetsk.

”Our high combat potential allows us to constantly strike the enemy and prevent him from holding the defense line,” Shoigu noted, estimating Kiev’s losses at half-a-million troops since the start of the conflict.

He also recalled that last year’s much-touted Ukrainian counteroffensive, prepared with the help of NATO instructors, had been a failure. “Our servicemen have dispelled the myth of the superiority of Western weapons,” he said.

The Russian minister also hailed the national defense industry, saying it had ramped up output repeatedly. This “has significantly increased the combat capabilities of our armed forces. This is evidenced by the situation in the special military operation zone,” Shoigu said.

Amid current tensions with the US and its allies, the minister vowed to further boost military production while promising to “increase the intensity of attacks on logistics centers and facilities where Western weapons are stored.”

Russia regularly conducts high-precision long-range strikes on Ukrainian military infrastructure, logistics hubs, and defense industrial facilities. It has repeatedly said that it does not attack civilian targets.

In February, Russian forces liberated the strategic Donbass town of Avdeevka, and later captured several nearby settlements. Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials have largely attributed the retreat to a lack of ammunition and delays in Western assistance. Against this backdrop, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky acknowledged last month that Kiev was not ready to repel a major Russian offensive.

The head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, Kirill Budanov, has predicted that Kiev will face “a rather difficult situation” in mid-May and early June.

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