New offensive from Belarus unlikely, ISW report says
The Armed Forces of Ukraine liberate Ukrainian territories in Donbas (Photo:Zohra Bensemra/Reuters)
The recently established joint Russia-Belarus task force is unlikely to invade Ukraine from the north in near future, the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its Oct. 10 report.
"Russian and Belarusian forces remain unlikely to attack Ukraine from the north despite Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's Oct. 10 announcement that Belarus and Russia agreed to deploy the Union State’s Regional Grouping of Forces (RGF)," ISW experts predict.
The analysts note that the Russian component of any RGF formations in Belarus is likely comprised of mobilized or conscripted troops of low readiness, who are unlikely to pose a significant conventional military threat to Ukraine.
ISW writes that the Russian component of the RGF consists of elements of the 1st Guards Tank Army, the 20th Combined Arms Army and various airborne units, some of which have already suffered heavy combat losses in Ukraine and are operating with greatly reduced combat effectiveness.
At the same time, the Kremlin may seek to use additional Russian forces in Belarus to keep Ukrainian forces tied down near Kyiv and prevent their redeployment elsewhere around the country.
ISW also analyzed the massive Russian missile attack on Ukrainian cities on Oct. 10. According to the assessment, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin ordered the barrage of missile strikes as a response to the recent bombing of the Crimea Bridge – in order to appease domestic bellicose nationalists, who "demanded such retaliation".
"The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (HUR) also reported that Putin has been planning this attack prior to the Crimea Bridge explosion, and if true, could indicate that Putin planned this attack as a deflection from the Kharkiv-Izyum-Lyman failures,” the report said.
It is also noted that during the massive attack on Oct. 10, Russia expended more of its dwindling supply of precision munitions on civilian targets – rather than on objects of military significance.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that Russian troops have carried out strikes at Ukrainian military command-and-control centers, communications infrastructure, and energy systems in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russian cruise missiles struck a playground, a park, the German consulate, and a business center – in Kyiv alone.
"Russian attacks on the Ukrainian energy grid are not likely to break Ukraine’s will to fight, but Russia’s use of its limited supply of precision weapons in this fashion may deprive Putin of tools to disrupt ongoing Ukrainian counter-offensives in Kherson and Luhansk oblasts," ISW added.
ISW has further concluded that Putin's statements about a proportional escalation in response to the alleged attack on the Crimea Bridge suggest that he will continue to strike targets across Ukraine, but will not take more drastic measures – such as the use of nuclear weapons.
ISW also presents other key findings:
- Russian forces conducted massive, coordinated missile strikes on over 20 Ukrainian cities;
- Ukrainian forces have likely liberated over 200 square kilometers of territory in western Luhansk Oblast as of October 10;
- Russian forces continued unsuccessful attempts to regain recently lost territory in northwest Kherson Oblast while reinforcing nearby positions with damaged and hastily mobilized units.
- Russian forces continued ground attacks in Donetsk Oblast;
- Russian and occupation administration officials are setting conditions to move up to 40,000 residents out of Kherson Oblast to Russian-occupied Crimea and the Russian Federation;
- Russian forces cannot supply mobilized forces, likely due to years of supply theft by contract soldiers and commanders.
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