Ukraine Project

Iran Update, April 6, 2024

Palestinian fighters have claimed several attacks targeting Israeli forces near Deir al Balah in the central Gaza Strip in recent days. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) claimed on April 6 that its forces returned from the front lines east of Deir al Balah and reported attacking an Israeli tank with an explosively formed penetrator. The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed militant wing of Fatah, separately mortared Israeli forces near Deir al Balah. Commercially available satellite imagery captured on April 5 shows flattened terrain southeast of Deir al Balah, indicating that Israeli bulldozers and/or bulldozers are operating in the area.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 3, 2024

Russian forces appear to have increased the number and size of mechanized ground assaults on select sectors of the frontline within the past two weeks, marking a notable overall increase in Russian mechanized assaults across the theater. Ukrainian officials stated on March 20 that Ukrainian forces repelled a large Russian assault in the Lyman direction and published geolocated footage showing Ukrainian forces damaging or destroying several Russian armored vehicles east of Terny (west of Kreminna).

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 2, 2024

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a law on April 2 that lowers the Ukrainian military’s mobilization age from 27 to 25 years of age. The Verkhovna Rada approved the law in May 2023, and the law will come into force on April 3, 2024. Lowering the mobilization age is one of many measures that Ukraine has been considering in an ongoing effort to create a sustainable wartime force-generation apparatus. Lowering the mobilization age from 27 to 25 years of age will support the Ukrainian military’s ability to restore and reconstitute existing units and to create new units. Ukraine will need to equip any newly mobilized military personnel with weapons, and prolonged US debates about military aid to Ukraine and delays in Western aid may impact the speed at which Ukraine can restore degraded and stand up new units. ISW continues to assess that Western-provided materiel continues to be the greatest deciding factor for the Ukrainian military’s ability to restore and augment its combat power.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 31, 2024

The Kremlin-controlled Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate (ROC MP) reportedly directed all its clergy to change their liturgy to include pro-war prayers in support of Russia’s war of conquest against Ukraine and is likely threatening to defrock ROC MP clergy who do not support the war. A Russian Telegram channel with insider sources within the ROC MP amplified on March 31 a document dated March 29, in which Head of the ROC MP Affairs, Metropolitan Gregoriy of Voskresensk, instructed clergy to read a prayer — the “Prayer for Holy Rus” — on a daily basis during Lent. Metropolitan Gregoriy of Voskresensk also called on the clergy to read the “Prayer for Holy Rus” at home and to offer to read this prayer to parishioners. The “Prayer for Holy Rus” is a new prayer that the ROC MP officially introduced in September 2022. This prayer is a highly politicized and pro-war and pro-Kremlin prayer filled with Kremlin talking points and other false Russian narratives. The prayer asks God to “to help [Russian] people and grant [Russia] victory” against “those who want to fight [and] have taken up arms against Holy Rus, eager to divide and destroy her one people.”

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 30, 2024

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky indicated that delays in American security assistance have forced Ukraine to cede the battlefield initiative and that these delays continue to threaten Ukraine’s defensive capabilities. The Washington Post published excerpts of an interview with Zelensky on March 29 in which Zelensky stated that Ukraine will not be able to defend its territory without American support, as Ukraine currently relies on air defense systems and missiles, electronic warfare jammers, and 155mm artillery shells from the United States. Zelensky stated that continued materiel shortages will force the Ukrainian military to cede more Ukrainian territory and people “step by step” since a smaller but more stable frontline is preferable to a larger but unstable front that Russian forces could exploit to achieve a breakthrough. Zelensky stated that Ukrainian forces are “trying to find some way not to retreat” from unspecified frontline areas and noted that Ukrainian forces have stabilized the front near Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast.

The Russian Orthodox Church Declares “Holy War” Against Ukraine and Articulates Tenets of Russia’s Emerging Official Nationalist Ideology

The Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate (ROC MP), a Kremlin-controlled organization and a known tool within the Russian hybrid warfare toolkit, held the World Russian People’s Council in Moscow on March 27 and 28 and approved an ideological and policy document tying several Kremlin ideological narratives together in an apparent effort to form a wider nationalist ideology around the war in Ukraine and Russia’s expansionist future. The ROC MP intensified Kremlin rhetoric about Russia’s war in Ukraine and cast it as an existential and civilizational “holy war,” a significant inflection for Russian authorities who have so far carefully avoided officially framing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as any kind of “war."

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 29, 2024

The Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate (ROC MP), a Kremlin-controlled organization and a known tool within the Russian hybrid warfare toolkit, held the World Russian People’s Council in Moscow on March 27 and 28 and approved an ideological and policy document tying several Kremlin ideological narratives together in an apparent effort to form a wider nationalist ideology around the war in Ukraine and Russia’s expansionist future.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 28, 2024

Ukraine is currently preventing Russian forces from making significant tactical gains along the entire frontline, but continued delays in US security assistance will likely expand the threat of Russian operational success, including in non-linear and possibly exponential ways. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated in an interview with CBS News published on March 28 that Ukrainian forces managed to hold off Russian advances through winter 2023–2024 and that Ukrainian forces have stabilized the operational situation.

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