Elements of Russia’s 72nd Separate Motor Rifle Brigade likely withdrew "in bad order" from their positions on the southern flank of Bakhmut over the last four days, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported on May 13.
The regained area was a Russian bridgehead on the western side of the Donets-Donbas Canal, which marks the front line through parts of the sector and has some tactical significance, according to the report.
The 72nd Separate Motor Rifle Brigade is part of Russia’s 3rd Army Corps, dogged with allegations of poor morale and limited combat effectiveness, the ministry said.
Its deployment highlighted Russia’s severe shortage of credible combat units.
Ukraine's Defense Ministry said earlier on May 12 that Ukrainian forces had advanced two kilometers toward Bakhmut "without losing a single position" this week.
Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar also claimed that Russian forces had suffered heavy losses as they defended their positions in Bakhmut, which she believes still holds a significant value for them.
Eastern Operational Command spokesman Serhiy Cherevaty also reported a successful operation in the Bakhmut area recently, saying on television that Ukraine has conducted counterattacks and there are signs of exhaustion among the Russian forces on the battlefield.
Cherevaty said the counterattacks pushed back Russian forces between 250 meters to 1.5 kilometers, naming a smaller estimate than the Defense Ministry.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a D.C.-based think-tank analyzing the war in Ukraine, said in its May 11 report that Ukraine had made localized advances in the Bakhmut area, where heavy fighting has raged since last summer.
"Ukrainian forces likely broke through some Russian lines in localized counteroffensives near Bakhmut, prompting responses from Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Russian Ministry of Defense," the ISW said.
The think-tank added that Russia's deployment of "low-quality" personnel on the flanks around Bakhmut suggests that the Russian Defense Ministry has "largely abandoned the aim of encircling a significant number of Ukrainian forces there."