Russian offensive in Donbas will soon culminate, ISW report says

21 July, 01:26 PM
Consequences of the recent shelling of Slovyansk by the Russian army, July 19, 2022

Consequences of the recent shelling of Slovyansk by the Russian army, July 19, 2022

Russia’s Donbas offensive will come to a culmination in the coming weeks, likely stalling at Slovyansk and Bakhmut, the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its July 20 report.

ISW assesses that while Russia may still make “limited additional territorial gains in Donbas northeast of the E40 highway,” it will fall short of seizing densely-populated areas like Slovyansk and Bakhmut.

Moscow’s troops have not made significant advances towards either of the two cities and are instead “continuing to degrade their own offensive combat power in localized fights for small and relatively unimportant settlements throughout Donetsk Oblast.”

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Russian troops have notably been attempting to take Siversk since the capture of Lysychansk and the Luhansk Oblast border on July 3 and have still not reached the city as of July 20. Similarly, Russian troops have failed to launch direct assaults on Bakhmut and have largely impaled themselves on fights for small settlements to its east and south. Efforts to advance on Slovyansk have mostly ground to a halt and have made no meaningful gains for weeks.

The renewal of active ground offensives following the brief operational pause has not yet translated into meaningful Russian forward progress, although it is possible that either steady Russian pressure or the completion of Russian efforts to rebuild combat power could generate limited gains in the coming days or weeks.

The report points out that invading Russian forces are already struggling to advance across sparsely-populated areas and open terrain, as they are about to enter “terrain much more conducive to the Ukrainian defenders.”

“The current Russian offensive in Donbas is therefore highly likely to culminate somewhere along the E40 in the coming weeks,” the report concludes.

Other takeaways of the July 20 assessment:

  • Russian forces resumed limited ground attacks northwest of Slovyansk and around the Donetsk City-Avdiivka area;
  • Russian forces continued localized ground assaults east of Siversk and made marginal gains northeast of Bakhmut;
  • Ukrainian forces conducted the second consecutive high-precision strike against the Antonivskyi Bridge-- a major Russian logistics artery east of Kherson;
  • Russian occupation authorities are likely propagandizing recent Ukrainian high-precision strikes and partisan activity to set conditions for mass deportations of Ukrainian citizens to Russian territory.

The expansion of Moscow’s war aims beyond Donbas – as recently outlined by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov – is rather detached from the sluggish pace of the Russian Donbas offensive, ISW points out.

“It is unclear how the Kremlin will generate the offensive combat power needed to take significant new amounts of Ukrainian territory,” the report reads.

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