Ukraine said on Sunday that its forces had recaptured Klishchiivka, a tactically important town south of the key front-line town of Bakhmut, as it mounted a counterattack against Russia’s fierce offensive.

Battlefield victories are particularly important for Ukraine as President Volodymyr Zelensky prepares to make his second wartime visit to Washington next week to drum up support.

But the progress came as two senior Western figures warned against hopes of a quick end to the conflict.

“Klishchiivka has been cleared by Russians,” Oleksandr Syrsky, commander of the Ukrainian military’s ground forces, posted on social media.

Zelensky praised the soldiers who fought near Bakhmut and singled out those who recaptured Klishchyivka, saying “Well done!” in his evening address to the nation.

Zelensky also said Kiev was “preparing new defense solutions for Ukraine” and said that “air defense and artillery are a priority,” without giving details.

Klishchyivka, home to several hundred people before Moscow launched its offensive in February 2022, was captured by Russian troops in January.

Ilya Yevlash, spokesman for Ukrainian troops in the east, said that control of Klishchyivka could help the Ukrainian army encircle Bakhmut, which was captured by Russian forces in May after one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the war.

“We have now created a base that will allow us in the future to further develop offensive actions and liberate our country from the occupiers,” Yevlash said in a televised statement.

Capturing the village would allow Ukrainian forces to more easily advance on Russian forces and conduct more targeted artillery strikes, he added.

Cautious words

The latest news from Kiev came as the United States’ most senior military officer said on Sunday that Ukraine’s broader goal of driving Russian forces out of its territory faces a “very high hurdle.”

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that while Ukraine’s current counteroffensive was “slower than planners expected, it has been steady.”

He rejected comments from some quarters that the offensive had failed, arguing that Ukraine “still has a lot of fighting power. Ukrainians are not a exhausted force.”

However, he warned: “It will take a very long time to militarily expel all 200,000 or more Russian troops from Russian-occupied Ukraine. That’s a very high bar. It will take a long time to achieve this.”

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also warned in an interview published on Sunday that there would be no quick end to the conflict.

“Most wars last longer than expected when they start,” Stoltenberg told the German Funke media group.

“That’s why we have to prepare for a long war in Ukraine,” even if everyone wants a quick peace.

The alleged recapture of Klishchyivka came after Ukraine’s armed forces said on Friday that the village of Andriivka, also south of the eastern city of Bakhmut, had been recaptured.

On Saturday, Russia denied that its forces had been driven out of the frontline village.

Kiev began resisting Moscow forces in the south and east of the country in June after building up Western weapons and recruiting assault battalions.

Ukrainian forces initially focused on the northern and southern flanks of Bakhmut and have made increasing progress since then.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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