Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, January 17, 2024

January 17, 2024 - ISW Press

A Ukrainian intelligence official reported that Russian forces lack the necessary operational reserves to conduct simultaneous offensive efforts in more than one direction in Ukraine. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Deputy Chief Major General Vadym Skibitskyi reported on January 17 that Russia does not have enough reserves to conduct large-scale offensive operations in several directions at the same time. Skibitskyi stated that it is impossible for Russian forces to conduct strategically or operationally significant offensive operations without “powerful” reserves and implied that Russia does not have such reserves. Skibitskyi noted that mobilization measures are ongoing in Russia, likely referring to the current Russian crypto-mobilization campaign that relies heavily on volunteer recruitment and the coercive mobilization of convicts and migrants.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, January 16, 2024

January 16, 2024 - ISW Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin continued to demonstrate that Russia is not interested in negotiating with Ukraine in good faith and that Russia’s maximalist objectives in Ukraine – which are tantamount to full Ukrainian and Western surrender – remain unchanged. Putin claimed on January 16 during a meeting with Russian municipal heads that “Ukrainian statehood may suffer an irreparable, very serious blow” if the current battlefield situation continues. Putin also reiterated Kremlin allegations of the prevalence of Nazism in Ukraine and claimed that ”such people...cannot win.” Russia’s continued calls for Ukraine’s “denazification” are thinly veiled demands for the removal of the elected Ukrainian government and its replacement with a government acceptable to the Kremlin. Putin reiterated the Kremlin narrative that Ukraine – not Russia – is to blame for the absence of negotiations, claiming that Ukraine’s “peace formula” is actually a continuation of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s ban on negotiating with Russia and amounts to “prohibitive demands” on the negotiation process. Putin claimed that any negotiation process is an “attempt to encourage [Russia] to abandon gains [it] has made in the past year and a half” and that this is “impossible.”

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, January 15, 2024

January 15, 2024 - ISW Press

Ukrainian officials announced that Ukrainian forces destroyed a Russian A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft and severely damaged an Il-22 airborne command post aircraft on the night of January 14. Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi posted flight tracking footage indicating that Ukrainian forces struck the A-50 and Il-22 over the Sea of Azov. Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat stated that Ukrainian forces were able to hit two targets while initially targeting the A-50. Ihnat stated that the Ukrainian strike forced the Il-22 to land in Anapa, that the Il-22 is likely irreparable, and that there were wounded and dead among its crew. Ukrainian and Russian sources posted a photo of the damaged Il-22 at the airfield in Russia. Ukrainian military officials, including Southern Operational Command Spokesperson Colonel Nataliya Humenyuk, stated that the A-50 directed Russian strikes against Ukrainian targets, such as air defense systems and aviation. Humenyuk stated that the destruction of the A-50 will at least postpone future Russian missile strikes on Ukraine. Ukrainian military observer Kostyantyn Mashovets stated on January 3 that Russia began constant sorties of A-50 aircraft due to the threat of Ukrainian strikes against Russian military infrastructure in Crimea, including Black Sea Fleet (BSF) assets. Valery Romanenko, a leading researcher at the Ukrainian State Aviation Museum of the National Aviation University, stated that the loss of the A-50 and members of its crew is “very painful” for Russia since a large part of the A-50's crew is highly specialized and must undergo several years of training. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command stated that Russia had only three A-50s in service out of a total of six prior to this strike.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, January 14, 2024

January 14, 2024 - ISW Press

Russian sources claimed that Russian forces are preparing to launch a new offensive in the coming weeks once the ground freezes in eastern and southern Ukraine. Russian literary critic and alternative historian Sergey Pereslegin claimed on January 12 that Russian forces will launch a large-scale offensive effort in Ukraine sometime between January 12 and February 2 after the ground freezes and likely after Ukrainian forces grow “exhausted” of defending their positions in Avdiivka and east (left) bank Kherson Oblast. Pereslegin claimed that Russians should be more concerned about Russia launching its offensive at the wrong time or making the same “mistakes” that Ukraine made during its 2023 counteroffensive than of a renewed Ukrainian offensive effort in 2024. Pereslegin also expressed concern that Russia does not have enough manpower to conduct the large-scale offensive effort he is anticipating.

Ukraine’s Long-Term Path to Success: Jumpstarting a Self-Sufficient Defense Industrial Base with US and EU Support

January 14, 2024 - ISW Press

Ukraine is dramatically expanding its defense industrial capacity to develop the ability over time to satisfy its military requirements with significantly reduced foreign military assistance. Ukraine is pursuing three primary lines of effort to achieve this goal: increasing its domestic defense industrial base (DIB), building bilateral and multilateral partnerships with European states, and pursuing industrial joint ventures with the United States and other international enterprises to co-produce defense materials in Ukraine and elsewhere. Ukraine will require considerable Western military assistance for several years, and its ability to reduce its dependence on such assistance depends in part on whether it can liberate strategically vital areas currently occupied by Russian forces, among other factors. But Ukraine and its Western partners are executing a realistic plan to create a sustainable basis for Ukraine to be able to defend itself over the long term with dramatically reduced foreign military assistance.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, January 13, 2024

January 13, 2024 - ISW Press

A recent video appeal by a Serbian mercenary addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin has unleashed discussions about an ongoing “clan war” within the Kremlin and the Russian information space against the backdrop of the Russian presidential campaign. Serbian sniper Dejan Beric (also known as “Deka”) – who has reportedly fought with Russian forces in Ukraine since Russia’s initial invasion in 2014, conducts Russian mercenary recruitment in Serbia, and became a member Putin’s election team – published a video appeal on January 8 wherein he accused military commanders of the Russian 119th Guards Airborne (VDV) Regiment (106th Guards VDV Division) of mistreating Serbian mercenaries in the “Wolves” (Volki) detachment. Elements of the 119th Guards VDV Regiment are currently operating on Bakhmut’s southern flank near Klishchiivka. Beric claimed that commanders of the 119th VDV Regiment forced Serbian mercenaries to conduct an assault without sufficient weapons, which prompted the entire detachment to refuse to continue attacks and demand a transfer to the nearby Chechen “Akhmat” Spetsnaz units. Beric stated that Russian military officials and police declared that the Serbian mercenaries were deserters and war criminals, disarmed them, pushed them out of their trenches, and forced them to admit that they were spies.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, January 12, 2024

January 12, 2024 - ISW Press

Ukraine and the United Kingdom (UK) signed an agreement on bilateral security guarantees pursuant to the G7’s July 2023 joint declaration of support for Ukraine. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on January 12 and signed the UK-Ukraine Agreement on Security Cooperation.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, January 11, 2024

January 11, 2024 - ISW Press

The reported concentration of the Russian military’s entire combat-capable ground force in Ukraine and ongoing Russian force generation efforts appear to allow Russian forces to conduct routine operational level rotations in Ukraine. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Deputy Chief Major General Vadym Skibitskyi stated on January 11 that Russian forces have 462,000 personnel in Ukraine and that this represents the entire land component of the Russian military. Skibitskyi stated that most Russian units in Ukraine are manned at between 92 and 95 percent of their intended end strength and that the size of the Russian grouping in Ukraine allows Russian forces to conduct rotations throughout the theater. Skibitskyi stated that Russian forces withdraw units that are at 50 percent or less of their intended end strength to rear areas and return them to the front following recovery and replenishment. Russian Security Council Deputy Chairperson Dmitry Medvedev stated on January 11 that the Russian military has successfully replenished Russian forces in Ukraine through an ongoing crypto-mobilization effort that generated over 500,000 new personnel in 2023.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, January 10, 2024

January 10, 2024 - ISW Press

The Kremlin’s effort to use the mythos of the Great Patriotic War (Second World War) to prepare the Russian public for a long war in Ukraine is at odds with Russia’s current level of mobilization and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rhetorical attempts to reassure Russians that the war will not have lasting domestic impacts. There is no indication that erroneous Russian comparisons between the war in Ukraine and the Second World War reflect an intent within the Kremlin to bring Russia to a wartime footing remotely reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s full-scale mobilization during the Second World War. Constant Kremlin allusions to World War II are meant in part to create the entirely false impression that Russia today can sweep aside its enemies relying on mass and weight of overwhelming manpower and materiel as the Red Army supposedly did to Nazi Germany.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, January 9, 2024

January 9, 2024 - ISW Press

A Ukrainian public opinion survey on Ukrainian attitudes towards the Ukrainian government and military indicates that Ukrainian society overwhelmingly supports Ukraine’s military and its leadership while experiencing tensions typical in a society fighting an existential defensive war. The Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KMIS) published a survey on December 18, 2023, that it conducted between November 29 and December 9, 2023, that shows that 96 percent of respondents support the Ukrainian Armed Forces, 88 percent trust Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, and 66 percent trust Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 84 percent of respondents in a previous KMIS poll conducted in December 2022 expressed trust in Zelensky, and trust in many Ukrainian institutions experienced a similar decline between December 2022 and 2023 – an unsurprising development given the protracted war. The Ukrainian Armed Forces, the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), the Ukrainian National Police, and Ukrainian volunteers did not see similar decreases in polled public trust during this time.