For first time, Ukraine gains chance to shape course of war – ISW

5 August, 02:44 PM
Ukrainian soldiers fight on the front lines in Kharkiv Oblast, August 2022 (Photo:Press service of the 93rd Separate Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces/Handout via REUTERS)

Ukrainian soldiers fight on the front lines in Kharkiv Oblast, August 2022 (Photo:Press service of the 93rd Separate Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces/Handout via REUTERS)

Ukraine has likely seized the strategic initiative in the war with Russia, forcing the Russians to redistribute forces and change priorities in response to Ukrainian counter-offensives, U.S. think tank the Institute for the Study of War or ISW said in its daily report on Aug 4.

“Ukraine’s preparations for the counteroffensive in Kherson and the initial operations in that counter-offensive, combined with the dramatic weakening of Russian forces generally, appear to be allowing Ukraine to begin actively shaping the course of the war for the first time,” the ISW report says.

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ISW said Russian forces are actively moving their personnel and equipment into Kherson and the western part of Zaporizhzhya Oblast – at the cost of attempts to capture Slovyansk and Siversk in Donetsk Oblast, which they seem to have given up on so far.

In addition, the Russian invading forces are also redeploying military vehicles, like artillery and aircraft, to Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Crimea from other regions of Ukraine.

Earlier, the invaders had already suspended offensive operations (in particular, on Kharkiv and the southern parts of the front) in order to make the capture of Luhansk Oblast a priority. At that time they took these steps at their own initiative, based on the changing priorities of their leadership, ISW analysts said.

Now, however, the Russian army appears to be forced to react to the threat of a Ukrainian counter-offensive in Kherson Oblast, ISW said.

The seriousness of the dilemma now facing the Russian high command likely depends on Ukraine’s ability to sustain significant counter-offensive operations on multiple fronts simultaneously. If Ukraine can put serious pressure on the positions of the invaders around Izyum while continuing the transition to a counter-offensive near Kherson, then Russian troops will face a very difficult choice, ISW believes.

“They will probably either have to give up their positions west of Izyum in favor of protecting their land lines of communication to the north and east, or commit more personnel and vehicles to try to hold the current front line,” ISW said.

“However, these forces would need to be transferred from another axis, which would jeopardize other Russian gains.”

In their report, the ISW also analyze statements by Russian propagandists about the “strikes” in the area of ​​the Donetsk Drama Theater and penal colony No. 124 in occupied Donetsk Oblast, which they claim the artillery of the Armed Forces of Ukraine inflicted on August 4 (the Office of the President of Ukraine denied this).

ISW experts give a number of arguments confirming that the Kremlin’s claims are false. The damage that the Russian propaganda media showed in their reports about the alleged “shelling” near the theater in Donetsk “does not correspond to artillery shelling,” according to the Institute.

In addition, ISW suggests that Russia is actually using the resonance of the “strike” on Donetsk, pumped up by Russian propaganda, to provoke an “emotional response” from residents of the Russian-occupied territories of Donetsk Oblast. The likely goal is to get support for the Russian offensive campaign in the Avdiyivka area and further recruitment effort.

Other takeaways of ISW analysts on the situation in Ukraine over the past day:

  • Russian troops unsuccessfully attempted to advance northwest of Izyum;
  • Ukrainian forces conducted a series of localized counter-attacks between Izyum and Slovyansk and regained positions in a number of settlements;
  • Russian forces continue to conduct ground attacks to the north-east and south of Bakhmut;
  • On Aug. 4, the Russian army continued its attempts to advance on Pisky and carried out a limited ground attack southwest of Donetsk.

The Russian war against Ukraine: a map of hostilities

Battle for Donbas

Fighting in Kharkiv Oblast

Fights in the south of Ukraine: Kherson, Mykolaiv oblasts

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