Russian forces likely preparing for offensive in spring-early summer of 2023, says ISW

24 January, 12:55 PM
Ukrainian tankers in the Bakhmut area, January 20, 2023 (Photo:REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak)

Ukrainian tankers in the Bakhmut area, January 20, 2023 (Photo:REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak)

Russian forces are likely preparing for an offensive effort in the spring or early summer of 2023, U.S. think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its Ukraine report on Jan. 24.

The ISW said the relevant assessment had been announced by Ukrainian intelligence, partially confirming ISW’s standing assessment that Russian troops may undertake a decisive action in the coming months.

The Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate of HUR spokesman Vadym Skibitsky stated on Jan. 20 that the spring and early summer of 2023 will be a decisive period in the war, and confirmed that the HUR has observed indicators that Russian troops are regrouping in preparation for a “big offensive” in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

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Skibitsky also reiterated that Russian forces are unlikely to launch an attack from Belarus or in southern Ukraine.

ISW has previously assessed that Russian forces may be preparing to make a decisive effort (of either offensive or defensive nature) in Luhansk Oblast, and observed a redeployment of conventional forces such as airborne (VDV) elements to the Svatove-Kreminna axis after the Russian withdrawal from Kherson Oblast.

ISW also maintains that it is highly unlikely that Russian forces are planning to relaunch a new offensive on northern Ukraine from the direction of Belarus.

Skibitsky’s assessments largely support ISW’s running forecasts of Russian intentions in the first half of 2023, and underscore the continued need for Western partner support to ensure that Ukraine does not lose the initiative to a renewed Russian offensive operation.

Other key takeaways by ISW analysts:

  • The Wagner Group’s outsized reliance on recruitment from penal colonies appears to be having increasing ramifications on Wagner’s combat capability;
  • Russia continues to deepen military and economic relations with Iran in an effort to engage in mutually beneficial sanctions evasion;
  • Russian forces continued limited counterattacks to regain lost positions along the Svatove-Kreminna line;
  • Ukrainian forces struck Russian concentration areas in occupied Luhansk Oblast;
  • Russian forces continued ground attacks around Bakhmut and on the western outskirts of the city of Donetsk;
  • Russian forces likely conducted a failed offensive operation in Zaporizhzhya Oblast in the last 72 hours;
  • Russian forces have not made any confirmed territorial gains in Zaporizhzhya Oblast despite one Russian occupation official’s continued claims. The occupation official may be pushing a narrative of Russian tactical successes in Zaporizhzhya Oblast to generate positive narratives to distract Russians from the lack of promised progress in Bakhmut;
  • The Kremlin’s efforts to professionalize the Russian armed forces are continuing to generate criticism among supporters of new Russian parallel military structures;
  • Russian officials and occupation authorities continue efforts to integrate occupied territories into Russian social, administrative, and political systems and crack down on partisan dissent in occupied areas.

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