(NewsNation) — Russia and Ukraine are holding new peace talks Tuesday with hopes raised there could be progress toward ending the bloody war that has stretched into its second month.

Russia’s ground forces have become bogged down because of the stronger-than-expected Ukrainian resistance, combined with what Western officials say are Russian tactical missteps, poor morale, shortages of food, fuel and cold weather gear, and other problems.

In addition to holding ground, Ukrainians have made some progress reclaiming territory, according to U.S. defense officials. In recent days, Ukraine reported taking back two towns south of Sumy in northeastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian forces seized back control of Trostyanets, 30 miles south of Sumy in the northeast, after weeks of Russian occupation that has left a landscape devastated by war. Sumy is still under Ukrainian control despite being attacked by Russians.

Farther west, the fiercely contested Kyiv suburb of Irpin, is now in Ukrainian hands, as Russians continue to try to take Kyiv.

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The Institute for the Study of War noted Russia’s attempts at advancing at all in northeastern Ukraine remain stalled and it’s likely to see more Russian troops concentrating on maintaining the Donbas region, where they have more solid control.

Russia’s defense minister says that “liberating” the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine is the main goal of Moscow’s military operation, underlining a possible shift in strategy announced last week by another Russian military official.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, whose few public appearances this month raised questions about his health and whereabouts, held a meeting with top military officials on Tuesday and said that “overall, the main tasks of the first stage of the operation have been completed.”

He said that “the combat potential of the Ukrainian armed forces has been significantly reduced, which makes it possible to focus the main attention and main efforts on achieving the main goal — the liberation of Donbas.”

The minister stressed that the Russian military will continue the operation until “the set goals are achieved.”

Ahead of the peace talks Tuesday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine was prepared to declare its neutrality, as Moscow has demanded, and was open to compromise over the contested eastern region of Donbas — comments that might lend momentum to negotiations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.