Russian attacks in eastern Ukraine likely exhausted, says ISW

22 August, 11:23 AM
Ukrainian defenders on the front lines (Photo:REUTERS/Dmytro Smolienko/File Photo)

Ukrainian defenders on the front lines (Photo:REUTERS/Dmytro Smolienko/File Photo)

Russian forces’ momentum from territorial gains around Bakhmut and Avdiyivka in late July is likely exhausted, and Russian attacks in eastern Ukraine are likely culminating, the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its Aug. 21 report.

The ISW did however say that some very small Russian advances would likely continue.

ISW analysts said Russian forces had seized Novoluhanske and the Vuhlehirska Thermal Power Plant (TPP) southeast of Bakhmut on July 25 and 26, respectively, consolidating Russian control around a difficult water features after many weeks of fighting.

Video of day

Russian forces also celebrated the capture of Ukrainian fortifications around the Butivka Coal Mine ventilation shaft southwest of Avdiyivka.

At the same time, Russian sources celebrated these gains as significant military victories without noting that Ukrainian forces had successfully broken contact and withdrawn from the area.

Thus, Russian offensive operations in eastern Ukraine have likely exhausted the limited momentum they gained at the end of July and are likely culminating, ISW experts said.

“Russian forces’ failure to capitalize on prior gains around Bakhmut and Avdiyivka is an example of a more fundamental Russian military problem – their demonstrated inability to translate tactical gains into operational successes,” the report says.

According to the ISW’s assessment, Russian forces have consistently failed to take advantage of tactical breakthroughs to maneuver into Ukrainian rear areas or unhinge significant parts of the Ukrainian defensive lines.

They therefore continually give the Ukrainians time to disengage tactically and re-establish defensible positions against which the Russians must then launch new attacks.

“This phenomenon helps explain the extremely slow rate of Russian advances in the east and strongly suggests that the Russians will be unable to take much more ground in the coming months unless the situation develops in unforeseen ways,” reads the report.

ISW analysts believe Russian forces will likely remain unable to commit enough resources to any one offensive operation to regain the momentum necessary for significant territorial advances that translate to operational successes.

Other conclusions of ISW analysts about the situation in Ukraine over the past day:

  • Russian forces likely face issues repairing combat aircraft due to Western sanctions and may be attempting to bypass these sanctions by leveraging Belarusian connections with less severe sanctions;
  • Russian forces attempted several unsuccessful ground assaults southwest and southeast of Izyum;
  • Russian forces launched a ground attack southeast of Siversk and northeast and south of Bakhmut;
  • Russian forces made limited gains west of the city of Donetsk but did not conduct any ground assaults on the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhya Oblast administrative border;
  • Russian forces attempted unsuccessful ground assaults southwest of the city of Donetsk and continued attacking settlements northwest and southwest of Avdiyivka;
  • Russian forces conducted several assaults on the Kherson-Mykolayiv frontline and made partial advances east of the city of Mykolayiv;
  • Russian occupation authorities intensified filtration measures and abductions in occupied territories ahead of Ukraine’s Independence Day on Aug. 24.

Russia’s war against Ukraine: Map of hostilities

Battle for Donbas

Battles in Kharkiv Oblast

Battles in southern Ukraine: Kherson, Mykolayiv oblasts

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