Russia likely preparing false flag attack in Belgorod Oblast, says ISW
Construction of defense structures in the Belgorod Oblast, November 22, 2022 (Photo:Press service of the Governor of Belgorod Region/Handout via REUTERS)
The Kremlin appears to be setting information conditions for a false flag attack in Belgorod Oblast, Russia, likely in an effort to regain public sup-port for the war in Ukraine, according to a new report of the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) published on Nov. 22.
According to the ISW, Kremlin propagandists have begun hypothesizing that Ukrainian forces seek to invade Belgorod Oblast, and other Russian sources noted that Russian forces need to regain control over the town of Kupyansk in Kharkiv Oblast to minimize the threat of a Ukrainian attack. Belgorod Oblast Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov also published footage showcasing the construction of the Zasechnaya Line fortifications on the Ukraine-Belgorod Oblast border.
The ISW noted that Russian claims of an imminent Ukrainian attack on Belgorod Oblast are absurd and only aim to scare the general public to support the war, while Ukraine has no strategic interest in invading Russia and no ability to do so at such a scale.
The ISW experts also noted that the Russian military has significantly depleted its arsenal of high-precision missiles, but will likely still be able to attack Ukrainian critical infrastructure at scale in the near term. They refer to Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov who released figures on Nov. 22, detailing that the Russian forces have significantly depleted their weapons.
At the same time, Ukrenergo head Volodymyr Kudrytskyi said on Nov. 22 that Russian forces have damaged almost all thermal power plants, large hydropower plants, and Ukrenergo hub substations in Ukraine.
“Russian forces will likely be able to continue to reduce the overall capacity of Ukrainian critical infrastructure in the near term given the current state of the Ukrainian power grid,” reads the report.
“The depletion of the Russian military’s high-precision missile arsenal will likely prevent it from conducting missile strikes at a high pace, however. ISW continues to assess that the Russian military will fail to achieve its goal of degrading the Ukrainian will to fight through its coordinated campaign against Ukrainian infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, according to the ISW, the Russian military is likely experiencing problems in replenishing its arsenal of high-precision weapons systems, including those with the supply of Iranian missiles to Russia, as re-ported by Ukrainian Air Force Command spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat on Nov. 21. Russia likely significantly strained the existing capacity of its military industry in producing these missiles, the ISW suggests.
In addition, Russian military movements suggest that Russian forces are likely reinforcing positions in eastern Zaporizhzhya and western Donetsk oblasts.
Other conclusions of ISW analysts over the past day:
- Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continued counter-offensive operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line;
- Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut and Avdiyivka;
- Crimean occupation officials demonstrated heightened unease – likely over Ukrainian strikes on Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) in the peninsula and ongoing military operations on the Kinburn Spit;
- The Kremlin continues to deflect concerns about mobilization onto the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD);
- Russian sources continue to tout the forced adoption of Ukrainian children into Russian families.
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