Russians running short of missiles, will find it hard to sustain infrastructure bombing campaign, says ISW

8 November 2022, 05:24 PM
Destroyed Russian T-72 tank in southern Ukraine, Mykolaiv Oblast (Photo:REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo)

Destroyed Russian T-72 tank in southern Ukraine, Mykolaiv Oblast (Photo:REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo)

Given that its missile stocks are dwindling, Russia will find it hard to sustain its campaign of attacks on the infrastructure of Ukraine, the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its latest report on Nov. 7.

Meanwhile, the reaction of the Russian Ministry of Defense to the alleged defeat of their marines in the area of Pavlivka probably just confirms the seriousness of the losses for the Russian forces at this part of the front, ISW said.

The Russian Ministry of Defense issued a rare statement on Nov. 7 in response to extensive Russian milblogger outcry on Nov. 6 about reported extensive losses and poor command within the 155th Naval Infantry Brigade of the Pacific Fleet, ISW experts said.

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Russian milbloggers published and circulated a letter from the above-mentioned brigade to Russia’s Primorsky Krai Governor Oleg Kozhemyako that claimed Russian military leadership “threw” the brigade into an “incomprehensible offensive” near the village of Pavlivka, Donetsk Oblast, where it suffered losses amounting to over 300 killed, wounded, and missing, and lost half of its equipment – all within four days.

On Nov. 7, the Russian Defense Ministry responded to the outcry and claimed that less than 1% of the brigade was killed and less than 7% was wounded within the past 10 days, and that Ukrainian forces suffered high losses instead.

ISW analysts highlight that “the Russian Defense Ministry has remained remarkably tight-lipped about milblogger critiques of Russian failures throughout the war in Ukraine — unlike the Kremlin, which will occasionally indirectly address milblogger narratives.”

The ministry’s “public response to milblogger outcry indicates that some Russian milbloggers have considerable leverage to shape MoD interactions in the information space and additionally suggests that the situation in Pavlivkais dire enough to warrant a response,” ISW wrote.

Russian forces have greatly depleted their arsenal of high-precision weapons systems and have suffered significant aviation losses and will likely struggle to maintain the current pace of the Russian military’s coordinated campaign against Ukrainian critical infrastructure, ISW analysts said, pointing at Ukraine’s statement that it could restore the power supply to normal levels over several weeks, “if the pace of Russian strikes on critical infrastructure dramatically slows.”

The Russian pro-war group, which ISW believes Wagner Group financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin and Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov to be part of, is increasing its influence in part to advance personal interests in Russia and occupied Ukraine, not strictly to win the war, ISW experts said. Both Prigozhin and Kadyrov remain independent figures within Russia due to Putin’s dependency on their forces in Ukraine.

Russian journalists often ask Prigozhin about his ambitions for the Kremlin, which despite his repeated denials, show that he has created a public perception of his possibly entering a position of power.

Such discussions deviate from Putin’s decades-long positioning of himself as the only viable leader for Russia. Prigozhin also likely maintains his access to key Kremlin officials, and the Ukrainian Resistance Center even reported that he had an unofficial meeting with Putin’s administration head Anton Vaino.

Prigozhin and Vaino have allegedly discussed Putin’s negative influence over the Russian military campaign and distaste for Russian higher military command.

Meanwhile, Prigozhin is continuing to pose himself as a Russian strongman within foreign affairs by promoting his own engagement in U.S. election interference. Prigozhin sarcastically acknowledged Bloomberg reports regarding his involvement in the U.S. 2022midterm elections, telling U.S. government–funded outlet Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: “Gentlemen, we interfered, we interfere and we will interfere.

Prigozhin’s admission to a U.S. publication a day prior to U.S. elections on Nov. 8 was likely aimed both to undermine public perception of the validity of election results and promote Prigozhin to a Russian audience as a capable actor — in line with Prigozhin’s previous public admittance that he finances the Wagner Group, which he previously denied for years, ISW said.

Russian occupation authorities are likely beginning a new phase of evacuations from Kherson Oblast, ISW experts said. According to the Russian-appointed Kherson “deputy” Kyrylo Stremousov’s statement, Nov. 7 will be the last day of organized evacuations from the west bank of the Dnipro River, only allowing possibility of “private evacuations” in the future.

“The purported shift from centralized to privatized evacuation efforts suggests that Russian occupation officials have completed evacuation under formal guidelines and will increasingly continue evacuations from areas in Kherson Oblast on a more ad hoc and case-by-case basis,” ISW said.

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“Russian officials may also be setting further information conditions to accuse Ukrainian forces of endangering civilian life by framing the end of centralized, administration-led evacuations as necessary to protect civilians.”

Key Conclusions

  • Russian troops continued efforts to tie down Ukrainian troops against the international border in northeastern Kharkiv Oblast;
  • Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian troops continued counter-offensive operations in the Svatove direction;
  • Russian sources claimed that Russian troops conducted limited counter-attacks to regain lost positions west of Kreminna;
  • Russian troops continued offensive operations around Bakhmut, in the Avdiyivka-Donetsk City area, and in western Donetsk Oblast;
  • Ukrainian forces conducted limited interdiction efforts against Russian concentration areas in Zaporizhzhya Oblast;
  • Russian dictator Vladimir Putin continued to make public statements and signed additional decrees to portray himself as taking steps to fix fundamental problems with partial mobilization in Russia;
  • Russian and occupation officials continue to abduct Ukrainian children, intimidate civilians, and escalate filtration measures.
Photo: ISW

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