Putin set on offense despite urging for defensive posture from top Russian leadership, believes ISW

23 April, 03:45 PM
Putin wants to go on the offensive and refuses to go on the defensive (Photo:Sputnik / Mikhail Metzel / Pool via REUTERS)

Putin wants to go on the offensive and refuses to go on the defensive (Photo:Sputnik / Mikhail Metzel / Pool via REUTERS)

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is determined to continue the Russian military’s offensive actions, despite efforts by top Russian military leadership to switch to a more defensive posture, the U.S. think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) stated in a recent briefing on  April 22.

According to the ISW, these efforts are being made by both Wagner mercenary company owner Yevgeny Prigozhin and Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu, who have partially repaired their earlier strained relationship. Prigozhin said on April 21, that Russia should “anchor itself in such a way that it is only possible to tear out (Russian forces from their positions) with the claws of the opponent.” His comment came just after a Ramstein-format summit, where Ukrainian partner nations discussed training even more Ukrainian military personnel and providing continuous military support to Ukraine. Prigozhin also noted that Ukraine will try to “break up” Russian forces and that Russia needs to resist such attacks.

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ISW analysts noted that recently, “Prigozhin has been increasingly alarmist in his recent rhetoric and has made similar statements about the uncertain future of Russian offensive operations in Donbas.”

“Prigozhin’s calls for strengthening Russian defenses in occupied territories and frequent discussions of the prospects of Ukrainian counteroffensives are notable as they indicate that he is trying to amplify the discussion in the Russian domestic information space,” the ISW said.

“Russia, however, continues to conduct offensive operations in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.”

The Wagner mercenary head wants the Russian war effort switch to a focus on consolidation, building up defenses in currently occupied areas along the front line. Prigozhin is essentially arguing that Russia “needs to meet the upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive at full strength and try to hold the current frontlines without ending the war or entering into peace negotiations,” ISW analysts wrote.

“Prigozhin is also attempting to redefine and undermine some of Putin’s key maximalist goals in Ukraine — namely the ‘denazification’ and ‘demilitarization’ of Ukraine — likely to minimize the informational impact that might result from going over to the defensive and abandoning efforts to gain more ground now,” the ISW added.

Meanwhile, the Russian Ministry of Defense has reportedly announced its intention to recruit 400,000 contract servicemen to ensure that Russia has enough personnel to defend existing front lines and effectively freeze current gains in Ukraine. There have also been reports that the Russian military command is transferring conscripts to maintain positions in Crimea and possibly planning to prepare other resources to hold certain lines during the potential Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The ISW believes there has been an improvement in Prigozhin’s relations with the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Kremlin since the beginning of April. In particular, the Ministry of Defense began to directly acknowledge the presence of Wagner’s forces in their daily reports on the situation and provided the PMC with ammunition and so-called “mobiks” (recruits) for reinforcement in early April.

Russian troops continue exhaustive attacks on Bakhmut, Avdiyivka, and Maryinka in Donetsk Oblast, as well as limited offensive operations in Luhansk and the western part of Donetsk oblasts, despite growing concerns about the potential threat of a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Bakhmut, Avdiyivka, and Maryinka do not provide significant operational advantages to Russian forces, and any minor tactical advantages there are unlikely to enhance the ability of Russian troops to defend against a Ukrainian counteroffensive, the analysts added.

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