Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, February 22, 2024

February 22, 2024 - ISW Press

Russian Security Council Deputy Chairperson Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia would likely have to seize Kyiv sooner or later while identifying Russia’s possible further territorial objectives in Ukraine. Medvedev responded in an interview published on February 22 to a question asking if there will “still be any part of Ukraine left that [Russia] will consider as a legitimate state, whose borders [Russia] will be ready to recognize.” Medvedev stated that Russia must “ensure its interests” by achieving the goals of the “special military operation” as laid out by Russian President Vladimir Putin – referring to Russian demands for Ukraine’s “demilitarization,” “denazification,” and neutrality. Medvedev reiterated Russia’s intention of changing the government in Ukraine, stating that the Ukrainian government “must fall, it must be destroyed, it must not remain in this world.” Medvedev claimed that Russia must create a “protective cordon” in order to protect against “encroachments on [Russia’s] lands,” including shelling and active offensive operations. Medvedev stated that he does not know where Russia should “stop” but that Russia “probably” must seize and occupy Kyiv “if not now then after some time.”

WARNING: Transnistria May Organize a Referendum on Annexation to Russia to Support Russian Hybrid Operation Against Moldova

February 22, 2024 - ISW Press

The pro-Russian breakaway region of Transnistria may call for or organize a referendum on Transnistria’s annexation to Russia at a recently announced Transnistrian Congress of Deputies planned for February 28. The pretext for such a call would be the purported need to protect Russian citizens and “compatriots” in Transnistria from threats from Moldova or NATO or both. Russian President Vladimir Putin could, in the most dangerous course of action, declare Russia’s annexation of Transnistria during his planned address to the Russian Federal Assembly on February 29, although that appears unlikely. Putin will more likely welcome whatever action the Transnistrian Congress of Deputies takes and offer observations on the situation. ISW offers this assessment as a warning for a high-impact event of indetermined probability. Moldovan government officials state that the situation in Moldova is unlikely to worsen as of February 22.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, February 21, 2024

February 21, 2024 - ISW Press

Prominent independent Russian milblogger Andrei Morozov reportedly committed suicide on February 21 after refusing the Russian military command’s orders to delete his reports about high Russian casualty rates around Avdiivka. Morozov (also known under the alias Boytsovskiy Kot Murz) was a sergeant in the Russian 4th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade (2nd Luhansk People’s Republic’s [LNR] Army Corps) and an avid critic of the Russian military command and the Ministry of Defense (MoD). Morozov published a lengthy suicide note in which he stated that an unnamed Russian colonel ordered him on February 20 to remove his February 19 report that claimed that 16,000 Russian personnel died in combat during Russian offensive operations in Avdiivka.

The Russian Winter-Spring 2024 Offensive Operation on the Kharkiv-Luhansk Axis

February 21, 2024 - ISW Press

Russian forces are conducting a cohesive multi-axis offensive operation in pursuit of an operationally significant objective for nearly the first time in over a year and a half of campaigning in Ukraine. The prospects of this offensive in the Kharkiv-Luhansk sector are far from clear, but its design and initial execution mark notable inflections in the Russian operational level approach.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, February 20, 2024

February 20, 2024 - ISW Press

Ukraine has been defending itself against illegal Russian military intervention and aggression for 10 years. Russia violated its commitments to respect Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity and began its now decade-long military intervention in Ukraine on February 20, 2014 when Russian soldiers without identifying insignia (also known colloquially as “little green men” and, under international law, as illegal combatants), deployed to Crimea. The deployment of these Russian soldiers out of uniform followed months of protests in Ukraine against pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych for refusing to sign an association agreement with the European Union (EU) that the Ukrainian Rada had approved.The Yanukovych government killed and otherwise abused peaceful Ukrainian protestors, leading to an organized protest movement calling for Yanukovych’s resignation. This Ukrainian movement — the Euromaidan Movement — culminated in Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity during which the Rada voted to oust Yanukovych who then fled to Russia with the Kremlin’s aid. Russian President Vladimir Putin viewed these events as intolerable and launched a hybrid war against Ukraine as the Euromaidan Movement was still underway with the goal of reestablishing Russian control over all of Ukraine.

Fact Sheet: The Kremlin's Occupation Playbook: Coerced Russification and Ethnic Cleansing in Occupied Ukraine

February 20, 2024 - ISW Press

Russia’s war in Ukraine is a war for people, not just land. The lives, freedom, and identities of nearly five million Ukrainians currently under Russian occupation and the nearly five million more whom the Kremlin has illegally deported to Russia, as well as the millions who have fled their homeland to other parts of Ukraine or abroad are at stake.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, February 19, 2024

February 19, 2024 - ISW Press

The tempo of Russian offensive operations near Avdiivka has reportedly dramatically slowed following the Russian seizure of Avdiivka. Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Dmytro Lykhoviy reported on February 19 that the number of Russian attacks in the Avdiivka direction significantly decreased in the past day and that Russian forces are currently regrouping and conducting clearing operations in Avdiivka. Lykhoviy noted that Russian shelling and aviation activity has also significantly decreased in the area. Ukrainian officials reported that Ukrainian forces have withdrawn to a new line of defense, which Ukrainian forces previously prepared in advance and fortified at “several levels.” Russian forces will likely have to conduct an operational pause before resuming significant offensive operations in the Avdiivka direction or will have to transfer additional reinforcements from other sectors of the front to the area to prevent operations near Avdiivka from culminating. Russian forces have reserves available for such reinforcement in other sectors, but ISW has observed no indication that the Russian command is moving those reserves toward Avdiivka at this time.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, February 18, 2024

February 18, 2024 - ISW Press

Ukrainian forces will likely be able to establish new defensive lines not far beyond Avdiivka, which will likely prompt the culmination of the Russian offensive in this area. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed on February 18 that elements of the Russian Central Grouping of Forces completely captured Avdiivka, advancing 8.6 kilometers in depth in the area, and that Russian forces continue offensive operations to capture additional territory in Donetsk Oblast. Several Russian milbloggers claimed on February 18 that Ukrainian forces lack well prepared defensive positions west of Avdiivka and that Russian forces will be able to advance further into western Donetsk Oblast behind “panicked” and “disorganized” Ukrainian forces withdrawing from Avdiivka. ISW has still not observed footage of disorderly Ukrainian withdrawals to support these Russian claims and would expect to observe such footage if the withdrawal was disorderly on a large scale given the normal patterns of Russian sources with access to such material. One Russian milblogger claimed that a large-scale collapse of the Avdiivka front is “unlikely” as Ukrainian forces withdraw to prepared defensive lines, however, indicating that the Russian understanding (or presentation) of Ukrainian defensive capabilities on this sector of the front differs from source to source.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, February 17, 2024

February 17, 2024 - ISW Press

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that Russian forces have established “full control” over Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast as Russian forces continued to advance in the settlement on February 17, and Ukrainian forces have likely withdrawn from Avdiivka. Shoigu reported to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the evening of February 17 that elements of the Russian Central Grouping of Forces are completing the capture of Avdiivka and clearing areas where Shoigu claimed Russian forces had trapped Ukrainian forces. Putin credited the 30th Motorized Rifle Brigade (2nd Combined Arms Army [CAA], Central Military District [CMD]); 35th, 55th, and 74th Motorized Rifle Brigades (all of the 41st CAA, CMD); 1st, 9th, and 114th Motorized Rifle Brigades and 1454th Motorized Rifle Regiment and 10th Tank Regiment (all of the 1st Donetsk People’s Republic [DNR] Army Corps [AC]); and the 6th, 80th, and 239th Tank Regiments (all of the 90th Tank Division, 41st CAA, CMD) for capturing Avdiivka under the leadership of Russian Center Group of Forces commander Colonel General Andrei Mordvichev.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, February 16, 2024

February 16, 2024 - ISW Press

Ukrainian forces have begun to withdraw from Avdiivka, and Russian forces appear to be focused on complicating or preventing a complete Ukrainian withdrawal. Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi stated early in the morning Ukrainian time on February 17 that he ordered Ukrainian forces within Avdiivka to withdraw to more favorable defensive positions in order to avoid encirclement and save the lives of Ukrainian personnel.