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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 19


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The Institute for the Study of War

Frederick W. Kagan, George Barros, and Kateryna Stepanenko

March 19, 3 pm ET

Ukrainian forces have defeated the initial Russian campaign of this war. That campaign aimed to conduct airborne and mechanized operations to seize Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, and other major Ukrainian cities to force a change of government in Ukraine. That campaign has culminated. Russian forces continue to make limited advances in some parts of the theater but are very unlikely to be able to seize their objectives in this way. The doctrinally sound Russian response to this situation would be to end this campaign, accept a possibly lengthy operational pause, develop the plan for a new campaign, build up resources for that new campaign, and launch it when the resources and other conditions are ready. The Russian military has not yet adopted this approach. It is instead continuing to feed small collections of reinforcements into an ongoing effort to keep the current campaign alive. We assess that that effort will fail.

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Stalemate will likely be very violent and bloody, especially if it protracts. Stalemate is not armistice or ceasefire. It is a condition in war in which each side conducts offensive operations that do not fundamentally alter the situation. Those operations can be very damaging and cause enormous casualties. The World War I battles of the Somme, Verdun, and Passchendaele were all fought in conditions of stalemate and did not break the stalemate. If the war in Ukraine settles into a stalemate condition Russian forces will continue to bomb and bombard Ukrainian cities, devastating them and killing civilians, even as Ukrainian forces impose losses on Russian attackers and conduct counter-attacks of their own. The Russians could hope to break Ukrainians’ will to continue fighting under such circumstances by demonstrating Kyiv’s inability to expel Russian forces or stop their attacks even if the Russians are demonstrably unable to take Ukraine’s cities. Ukraine’s defeat of the initial Russian campaign may therefore set conditions for a devastating protraction of the conflict and a dangerous new period testing the resolve of Ukraine and the West. Continued and expanded Western support to Ukraine will be vital to seeing Ukraine through that new period.

Key Takeaways:

  • We now assess that the initial Russian campaign to seize Ukraine’s capital and major cities and force regime change has failed;
  • Russian forces continue efforts to restore momentum to this culminated campaign, but those efforts will likely also fail;
  • Russian troops will continue trying to advance to within effective artillery range of the center of Kyiv, but prospects for their success are unclear;
  • The war will likely descend into a phase of bloody stalemate that could last for weeks or months;
  • Russia will expand efforts to bombard Ukrainian civilians in order to break Ukrainians’ will to continue fighting (at which the Russians will likely fail);
  • The most dangerous current Russian advance is from Kherson north toward Kryvyi Rih in an effort to isolate Zaporizhiya and Dnipro from the west. Russian forces are unlikely to be able to surround or take Kryvyi Rih in the coming days, and may not be able to do so at all without massing much larger forces for the effort than they now have available on that axis;
  • The Russians appear to have abandoned plans to attack Odesa at least in the near term.

 

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Putin may be losing the information war, but Zelensky's NATO concession suggests Ukraine may be losing on the battlefield. The West must not fool itself into thinking otherwise, writes military expert

Bill Roggio

Published: 17:53 EDT, 18 March 2022 | Updated: 13:52 EDT, 19 March 2022

Bill Roggio is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and editor of FDD's Long war Journal. 

As Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine grinds on into its fourth week, the physical war rages in the cities and countryside, while an information war is waged over the airwaves and on the internet and social media.

On the actual battlefield, the Russian offensive has undoubtedly slowed over the past week. But what is being described as a 'stalled' takeover may be the result of the Russians taking time to reorganize their forces and improve their logistics.

On the Western side of the information war, we were told from the opening days of the conflict that the Russian military would break due to high casualties and defections, loss of tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and aircraft, and domestic opposition.

Videos of Russian battlefield setbacks abound in the media, and strangely there is little reporting on Ukrainian losses.

And yet, over three weeks into the war, Vladimir Putin remains president and the Russian war machine has not collapsed but in fact continues its plodding, imperfect, and messy advance.

Ukraine certainly has won the war on social media and in the press. This gives the average Western viewer the impression of a lopsided victory in favor of Ukraine.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 29

Frederick W. Kagan, George Barros, and Kateryna Stepanenko

Mar. 29 2022

The Russians have not yet abandoned their attacks on Kyiv, claims by Russian Defense Ministry officials notwithstanding. Russian forces continued fighting to hold their forwardmost positions on the eastern and western Kyiv outskirts even as badly damaged units withdrew to Russia from elsewhere on the Kyiv and Chernihiv axes. The Russian high command has likely concluded that it cannot seize Kyiv and may not be able to move artillery closer to the center of the city. It may have decided to stop its previous practices of forcing units that have already taken devastating losses to continue hopeless offensive operations and of feeding individual battalion tactical groups into the battle as they become available rather than concentrating them to achieve decisive effects. Russian officials are likely casting these decisions driven by military realities as overtures demonstrating Russia’s willingness to engage in serious ceasefire or peace negotiations, possibly to conceal the fact that they have accepted the failure of their efforts on the Kyiv axis.

Russia continues to reinforce its efforts in Ukraine’s northeast likely attempting to link its positions southeast of Kharkiv and Izyum with its forces in Luhansk Oblast. The Russians have reportedly redirected forces from the Chernihiv-Kharkiv axis to the Izyum-Slovyansk axis, most likely reassigning reinforcements rather than redeploying units already committed to fighting. Russian forces in the Izyum-Slovyansk area continue fighting to hold and expand their penetration to the southeast.

The Russian advance in Mariupol continues to gain ground, and Russian forces have likely bisected or even trisected the city. Pockets of Ukrainian defenders continue to hold out in Mariupol, likely in several areas, but the Russians will likely complete the conquest of the city within days. Russian forces have likely taken significant casualties in the tough urban fighting in Mariupol, making it difficult to evaluate how much combat power the Russians will be able to harvest from Mariupol to use for further advances north and west.

Russian operations in southeastern Ukraine have left large portions of Donetsk Oblast under Ukrainian control. Securing the boundaries of Donetsk Oblast along with the entirety of Luhansk Oblast will likely require a major offensive operation. Much of the area of Donetsk Oblast outside Russian control is flat and sparsely populated—terrain similar to that on which Russian forces elsewhere have been able to advance rapidly, at least earlier in the war. Russian offensive operations in similar terrain more recently have struggled, however. It is too soon to tell how feasible the Russian conquest of all of Donetsk and Luhansk will be for the Russian military in its current state.

Key Takeaways

 

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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 2

Mason Clark, George Barros, and Karolina Hird

April 2, 5:00 pm ET

Continuing Russian operations along their new main effort in eastern Ukraine made little progress on April 2, and Russian forces likely require some time to redeploy and integrate reinforcements from other axes. Ukrainian forces repelled likely large-scale Russian assaults in Donbas on April 2 and inflicted heavy casualties. Russian forces continued to capture territory in central Mariupol and will likely capture the city in the coming days. Russian units around Kyiv and in northeastern Ukraine continued to successfully withdraw into Belarus and Russia, and heavy mining in previously Russian-occupied areas is forcing Ukrainian forces to conduct slow clearing operations.

However, the Russian units withdrawn from northeastern Ukraine for redeployment to eastern Ukraine are heavily damaged. Russian forces likely require an extensive operational pause to refit existing units in Donbas, refit and redeploy reinforcements from other axes, and integrate these forces—pulled from several military districts that have not yet operated on a single axis—into a cohesive fighting force. We have observed no indicators of Russian plans to carry out such a pause, and Russian forces will likely fail to break through Ukrainian defenses if they continue to steadily funnel already damaged units into fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces continued to capture territory in central Mariupol on April 2 and will likely capture the city within days.
  • Ukrainian forces repelled several possibly large-scale Russian assaults in Donbas, claiming to destroy almost 70 Russian vehicles.
  • Russian forces will likely require a lengthy operational pause to integrate reinforcements into existing force structures in eastern Ukraine and enable successful operations but appear unlikely to do so and will continue to bleed their forces in ineffective daily attacks.
  • Russian forces in Izyum conducted an operational pause after successfully capturing the city on April 1 and will likely resume offensive operations to link up with Russian forces in Donbas in the coming days.
  • Russia continued to withdraw forces from the Kyiv axis into Belarus and Russia. Ukrainian forces primarily conducted operations to sweep and clear previously Russian-occupied territory.
  • Ukrainian forces likely repelled limited Russian attacks in Kherson Oblast.
  • The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces have rendered two-thirds of the 75 Russian Battalion Tactical Groups it assesses have fought in Ukraine either temporarily or permanently combat ineffective.

 

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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 3

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Key Takeaways

  • Ukraine has won the Battle of Kyiv, and Russian forces are completing their withdrawals from both the east and the west banks of the Dnipro in disorder.
  • Russian forces retreating from around Kyiv will likely need considerable time before they can return to combat.
  • Incidents of refusals of orders to engage in combat operations among Russian units continue and may lead to the redeployment of two BTGs that had arrived near Donbas within the last few days to their home stations in South Ossetia.
  • The continued existence of an independent Ukrainian state with its capital in Kyiv is no longer in question at this time, although much fighting remains and the war could still turn Russia’s way.

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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 5

Frederick W. Kagan, George Barros, and Karolina Hird

April 5, 4:30 pm ET

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Key Takeaways

  • The withdrawal of Russian forces from around Kyiv is nearing completion.
  • Russia has not yet introduced forces withdrawn from western Ukraine into the fight in the east.
  • Ukrainian forces continued to put up organized resistance in parts of Mariupol.
  • Russian forces conducted limited offensive operations on the Izyum-Slovyansk axis.

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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 9

Frederick W. Kagan, George Barros, Kateryna Stepanenko, and Karolina Hird

Apr 9, 2022

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Key Takeaways

  • Russia is unlikely to be able to mass combat power for the fight in eastern Ukraine proportionate to the number of troops and battalion tactical groups it sends there.
  • The Russian military continues to suffer from devastating morale, recruitment, and retention problems that seriously undermine its ability to fight effectively.
  • The outcome of forthcoming Russian operations in eastern Ukraine remains very much in question.

 

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We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment

Mason Clark, Kateryna Stepanenko, and Karolina Hird

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  • Russian forces bisected Mariupol from the city center to the coast on April 10, isolating the remaining Ukrainian defenders in the southwestern port and eastern Azovstal Steel Plant.
  • Russian forces again made little to no progress in frontal assaults in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts but continue to cohere further reinforcements.
  • Maxar Technologies satellite imagery captured hundreds of Russian vehicles in Kharkiv Oblast redeploying to support Russian operations near Izyum.
  • Ukrainian counterattacks may threaten Kherson city in the coming days or weeks.

 

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Apr. 11 2022

Joe reads an email from a listener very familiar with Russia. The listener weighs in the war in Ukraine.

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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 11

Mason Clark, Karolina Hird, and George Barros

April 11 2022

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Key Takeaways

  • Russian Commander of the Southern Military District Army General Alexander Dvornikov is the natural choice to take overall command of Russian operations in Ukraine. There is no reason to suppose Dvornikov was selected for any particular skills or experience, nor is there reason to think the conduct of the Russian war effort will materially change more than it was already changing due to the Russian abandonment of northeastern Ukraine and focus on the east.
  • Russian forces may have used chemical weapons against Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol, though ISW cannot independently verify Ukrainian claims at this time.
  • Russian forces failed to make significant advances in continued assaults on Severodonetsk, Popasna, and Rubizhne in eastern Ukraine.
  • Russian forces continued to amass troops in Kharkiv Oblast to reinforce offensive operations on the Izyum axis and conducted several minor attacks.

 

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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 12

Frederick W. Kagan, Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, and George Barros

April 12 2022

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Key Takeaways

  • The Russian military continues offensive operations in Donbas and is not in a pure reconstitution phase. It has not undertaken an across-the-board operational pause while waiting for reinforcements to arrive. In part, as a result, it has made limited gains while continuing to sustain significant losses.
  • Mariupol has not yet fallen.

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Immediate items to watch

  • Russian forces will likely continue ongoing offensive operations in the Donbas region, feeding reinforcements into the fight as they become available rather than gathering reinforcements and replacements for a more coordinated and coherent offensive.
  • Ukrainian defenders of Mariupol will not be able to hold out indefinitely, but it remains unclear how quickly Russia will be able to secure the city.
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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 17

Mason Clark and George Barros

April 17, 3pm ET

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Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces likely captured the Port of Mariupol on April 16 despite Ukrainian General Staff denials.
  • Russian forces likely seek to force the remaining defenders of the Azovstal factory to capitulate through overwhelming firepower to avoid costly clearing operations, but remaining Ukrainian defenders appear intent on staging a final stand.
  • Evgeny Prigozhin, financier of the Wagner Group, is likely active on the ground in eastern Ukraine to coordinate Wagner Group recruitment and funding.
  • Russian forces continued their build up around Izyum but did not conduct any offensive operations.

The Ukrainian Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported on April 16 that the Kremlin is increasingly arresting Russian and proxy officers for failures in Ukraine.[3] The GUR reported Russian military authorities established a commission intended to run from March 2 to April 24 in occupied Horlivka to identify the reasons for personnel shortages among Russian forces. The GUR reported that Russian investigators discovered the commanders of Russia’s 3rd Motor Rifle Brigade was 100% staffed at the beginning of the invasion when it in fact only had 55% of its personnel and arrested two battalion commanders in the brigade. The GUR also reported the FSB arrested DNR Defense Spokesperson Eduard Basurin for his ”careless statement” on April 11 revealing Russian intent to use chemical weapons in Mariupol, though there is still no independent confirmation of the Ukrainian claim of Russian chemical weapons use.

 

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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 18

Mason Clark, George Barros, Kateryna Stepanenko, and Karolina Hird

April 18, 6:30pm ET

Russian forces began a new phase of large-scale offensive operations in eastern Ukraine on April 18 likely intended to capture the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Russian forces have been concentrating reinforcements—including both newly-deployed units and damaged units withdrawn from northeastern Ukraine—to the Donbas axis for several weeks. Russian forces conducted large-scale assaults focused on Rubizhne, Popasna, and Marinka with heavy artillery support on April 18 after previously conducting only localized attacks and shelling along the line of contact. Russian forces have not secured any major territorial gains as of publication.

The Russian offensive in the east is unlikely to be dramatically more successful than previous Russian offensives, but Russian forces may be able to wear down Ukrainian defenders or achieve limited gains. Russian forces did not take the operational pause that was likely necessary to reconstitute and properly integrate damaged units withdrawn from northeastern Ukraine into operations in eastern Ukraine. As we have assessed previously, Russian forces withdrawn from around Kyiv and going back to fight in Donbas have, at best, been patched up and filled out with soldiers from other damaged units, and the Russian military has few, if any, cohesive units not previously deployed to Ukraine to funnel into new operations.[1] Frequent reports of disastrously low Russian morale and continuing logistics challenges indicate the effective combat power of Russian units in eastern Ukraine is a fraction of their on-paper strength in numbers of battalion tactical groups (BTGs). Russian forces may certainly be able to wear down Ukrainian positions in eastern Ukraine through the heavy concentration of firepower and sheer weight of numbers, but likely at a high cost. A sudden and dramatic Russian offensive success remains highly unlikely, however, and Ukrainian tactical losses would not spell the end of the campaign in eastern Ukraine, much less the war as a whole. 

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces likely began large-scale offensive operations in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts focused on Rubizhne, Popasna, and Marinka.
  • Russian forces may be able to gain ground through the heavy concentration of artillery and numbers. However, Russian operations are unlikely to be dramatically more successful than previous major offensives around Kyiv. The Russian military is unlikely to have addressed the root causes—poor coordination, the inability to conduct cross-country operations, and low morale—that impeded prior offensives.
  • Successful Ukrainian counterattacks southeast of Kharkiv will likely force Russian forces to divert some units intended for the Izyum offensive, but Ukrainian forces are unlikely to completely sever Russian lines of communication north of Izyum in the coming days.
  • Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol continued to hold out against heavy Russian artillery and air bombardment. 

 

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Immediate items to watch

  • Russian forces likely commenced large-scale offensive operations in Donbas but are unlikely to achieve a major breakthrough.
  • Ukrainian counterattacks southeast of Kharkiv may divert some Russian units but are unlikely to sever Russian lines of communication in the coming days.
  • Russian forces concentrating around Izyum will continue small-scale offensive operations to the southeast and southwest and may begin larger-scale offensives.
  • Russia and its proxies may declare victory in the Battle of Mariupol.
  • Russian forces could launch a new offensive operation from Donetsk City to the north through Avdiivka toward Kramatorsk.
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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 19

Frederick W. Kagan, Kateryna Stepanenko, and Karolina Hird

April 19, 5:30 pm ET

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Key Takeaways

  • The next phase of the Russian offensive in Ukraine’s east has reportedly begun, largely with artillery and air bombardments supporting a few small-scale ground offensives.
  • Russian officials and media are likely preparing to declare victory in Mariupol in the coming days, possibly before Ukrainian forces in the Azovstal facility have been fully defeated.
  • The Russians may be attempting a single wide encirclement of Ukrainian forces from Izyum to Donetsk City or a series of smaller encirclements within that arc. It is too soon to assess the intended Russian scheme of maneuver.
  • Russian operations continue to proceed hastily, as if President Vladimir Putin has set an arbitrary date by which they must succeed. Putin may have decided that he will announce a Russian success and the completion of the operation on Victory Day, May 9. The haste with which Russian forces are moving may compromise the success of their operations.

 

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Immediate items to watch

  • Russian forces will likely continue attacking southeast from Izyum, west from Kreminna and Popasna, and north from Donetsk City via Avdiivka.
  • Russian troops and aircraft will continue to pound the Azovstal facility, and Russian officials may declare victory in Mariupol even before the facility is fully cleared.
  • Russian forces will likely increase the scale of ground offensive operations in the coming days, but it is too soon to tell how fast they will do so or how large those offensives will be. It is also too soon to assess how the Russians will likely weight their efforts in the arc from Izyum to Donetsk City. 
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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 20

Mason Clark, George Barros, and Karolina Hird

April 20, 6pm ET

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Key Takeaways

  • Russia’s offensive in eastern Ukraine secured minor gains in the last 24 hours, taking parts of the key frontline towns of Rubizhne and Popasna.
  • Ukrainian forces reported the presence of small numbers of Syrian or Libyan mercenaries fighting in Popasna (eastern Ukraine), likely individual recruits fighting under the umbrella of the Wagner Group rather than larger units.
  • Russian forces made incremental advances in Mariupol and continued to set conditions to declare victory in the city by –at the latest – May 9.
  • Russian forces made minor advances around Izyum but have not secured any major breakthroughs.

 

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Immediate items to watch

  • Russian forces will likely continue attacking southeast from Izyum, west from Kreminna and Popasna, and north from Donetsk City via Avdiivka.
  • Russian troops and aircraft will continue to pound the Azovstal facility, and Russian officials may declare victory in Mariupol even before the facility is fully cleared.
  • Russian forces will likely increase the scale of ground offensive operations in the coming days, but it is too soon to tell how fast they will do so or how large those offensives will be. It is also too soon to assess how the Russians will likely weight their efforts in the arc from Izyum to Donetsk City.
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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 22

Mason Clark, George Barros, Kateryna Stepanenko, and Karolina Hird

April 22, 5:30pm ET

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Key Takeaways

  • A briefing by the Deputy Commander of the Central Military District restated the standing Russian objectives in the current phase of the war: capturing the entirety of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts and defending Russian positions in southern Ukraine against Ukrainian counterattacks.
  • Ongoing purges of Russian general officers for failures in Ukraine will likely further degrade Russian command and control.
  • Russian forces seek to starve out the remaining defenders and civilians in Mariupol’s Azovstal Steel Plant and are unlikely to allow trapped civilians to leave.
  • Russian forces conducted localized attacks and reconnoitered Ukrainian positions south of Izyum and did not make any advances.
  • Russian forces secured minor gains in continuing daily attacks on the line of contact in eastern Ukraine.
  • The Kremlin is setting conditions to create proxy republics in Zaporizhia and Kherson oblasts to cement Russian control over these regions and conscript Ukrainian manpower.

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Immediate items to watch

  • Russian forces will likely continue attacking southeast from Izyum, west from Kreminna and Popasna, and north from Donetsk City via Avdiivka.
  • Russian forces will attempt to starve out the remaining defenders of the Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol and will not allow trapped civilians to evacuate.
  • Russian forces will likely increase the scale of ground offensive operations in the coming days, but it is too soon to tell how fast they will do so or how large those offensives will be. It is also too soon to assess how the Russians will weight their efforts in the arc from Izyum to Donetsk City.
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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 24

Mason Clark and Kateryna Stepanenko

April 24, 3:00 pm ET

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces continued to pressure Ukrainian defenders in the Azovstal facility in Mariupol.
  • Ukrainian sources report that Russian troops are preparing to conduct renewed assaults on Azovstal that would likely prove costly—possibly to meet a Kremlin-imposed deadline to clear Mariupol—but ISW cannot independently confirm these reports.
  • Russian forces secured limited gains northwest of Severodonetsk but remain unlikely to be able to launch massed offensive operations.
  • Additional Russian forces are deploying to reinforce unsuccessful attacks on the Izyum front.
  • Ukrainian civilians in occupied Kharkiv Oblast are reportedly organizing volunteer movements to resist Russian occupation measures, similar to previously documented actions in southern Ukraine.

CORRECTION: ISW mistakenly reported on April 23 that Russian troops seized Lozova, Kharkiv Oblast, approximately 100km west of Izyum. Russian troops actually seized Lozove, Donetsk Oblast, approximately 35km east of Izyum. We apologize for the error.

 

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Immediate items to watch

  • Russian forces will likely continue attacking southeast from Izyum, west from Kreminna and Popasna, and north from Donetsk City via Avdiivka or another axis.
  • Russian forces will attempt to starve out the remaining defenders of the Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol and will not allow trapped civilians to evacuate.
  • Russian forces will likely increase the scale of ground offensive operations in the coming days, but it is too soon to tell how fast they will do so or how large those offensives will be. It is also too soon to assess how the Russians will weight their efforts in the arc from Izyum to Donetsk City.
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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 25

Mason Clark, Kateryna Stepanenko, and Karolina Hird

April 25, 5:00 pm ET

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Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces resumed ground attacks against Mariupol’s Azovstal Steel Plant in the last 24 hours. Russian officers may assess they will be unable to starve out the remaining defenders by May 9 (a possible self-imposed deadline to complete the capture of Mariupol). Russian forces will likely take high casualties if they resume major ground assaults to clear the facility.
  • Russian forces are accelerating efforts to secure occupied Mariupol but will likely face widespread Ukrainian resistance.
  • Continued Russian attacks in eastern Ukraine took little to no additional territory in the past 24 hours.
  • Prudent tactical Ukrainian counterattacks around Izyum are likely impeding Russian efforts to complete even tactical encirclements of Ukrainian forces.
  • Russian forces are preparing for renewed attacks to capture the entirety of Kherson Oblast in southern Ukraine after minor losses in the past 48 hours.
  • Russian forces likely conducted a false flag attack in Transnistria (Russia’s illegally occupied territory in Moldova) to amplify Russian claims of anti-Russian sentiment in Moldova, but Transnistrian forces remain unlikely to enter the war in Ukraine.

 

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Immediate items to watch

  • Russian forces will likely continue attacking southeast from Izyum, west from Kreminna and Popasna, and north from Donetsk City via Avdiivka or another axis.
  • Russian officers may assess they will be unable to starve out remaining defenders by May 9 (a possible self-imposed deadline to complete the capture of Mariupol) but will likely take high casualties if they resume major ground assaults to clear the facility.
  • Russian forces will likely increase the scale of ground offensive operations in the coming days, but it is too soon to tell how fast they will do so or how large those offensives will be. It is also too soon to assess how the Russians will weight their efforts in the arc from Izyum to Donetsk City.
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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 26

Frederick W. Kagan, Kateryna Stepanenko, and Karolina Hird

April 26, 6:30 pm ET

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Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces continue to make slow but steady progress south from Izyum and northwest of Rubizhne, but Russian offensive operations elsewhere along the line in eastern Ukraine remain unsuccessful.
  • Fighting continues in Mariupol, where Ukrainian defenders apparently still hold positions beyond the Azovstal Plant.
  • Russia and/or Russian proxies have staged false-flag attacks in Russian-occupied Transnistria, possibly to threaten a (very likely unsuccessful) attack on Odesa, possibly to destabilize Moldova.

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Immediate items to watch

  • Russian forces will likely continue attacking southeast from Izyum, west from Kreminna and Popasna, and north from Donetsk City via Avdiivka or another axis.
  • Russian forces will likely attempt to starve out the remaining defenders of the Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol and will not allow trapped civilians to evacuate.
  • Russia may continue false-flag attacks in and around Transnistria or might move to generate a more serious crisis in Transnistria and Moldova more generally.
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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 28

Mason Clark, George Barros, and Kateryna Stepanenko

April 28, 5:45pm ET

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Key Takeaways

  • Russian strategic bombers likely targeted a Ukrainian field hospital in the Azovstal Steel Plant. The remaining Ukrainian defenders are likely running low on supplies.
  • Russian attacks southwest of Izyum likely seek to outflank Ukrainian defenses on the direct road to Slovyansk and have made tactical gains in the last 24 hours.
  • Russian forces continued tactical ground attacks and shelling along the entire line of contact in eastern Ukraine but did not secure any major advances.
  • Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Head Denis Pushilin stated that the DNR will postpone local Victory Day celebrations planned for May 9 until “the complete victory and the expansion of the DNR" to control Donetsk Oblast, though the Kremlin remains likely to attempt to claim some sort of victory on May 9.
  • Russian forces conducted several locally successful attacks from Kherson toward Mykolaiv.
  • Russian and proxy forces continued to mobilize in Transnistria and set conditions for a false flag attack.

 

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Immediate items to watch

  • Russian forces attacking southeast from Izyum, west from Kreminna and Popasna, and north from Donetsk City will likely make steady but purely tactical gains against Ukrainian defenders.
  • Russian forces will likely attempt to starve out the remaining defenders of the Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol and will not allow trapped civilians to evacuate but may conduct costly assaults on the remaining Ukrainian defenders to claim a propaganda victory.
  • Russian forces are likely preparing to conduct renewed offensive operations to capture the entirety of Kherson Oblast in the coming days.
  • Russia may continue false-flag attacks in and around Transnistria or move to generate a more serious crisis in Transnistria and Moldova more generally. 
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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 29

Karolina Hird, Mason Clark, and George Barros

April 29, 6:15pm ET

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Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces likely intend to leave a minimal force in Mariupol necessary to block Ukrainian positions in Azovstal and prevent partisan actions and are deploying as much combat power as possible to support offensive operations elsewhere.
  • Ukrainian forces are successfully slowing Russian attacks in eastern Ukraine, which secured only minor advances west of Severodonetsk and did not advance on the Izyum front in the last 24 hours.
  • Ukrainian counterattacks in Kharkiv are unlikely to develop into a major counteroffensive in the coming days but may force Russia to redeploy forces intended for the Izyum axis to hold their defensive positions around the city.
  • Ukrainian intelligence continued to warn that Russian false flag attacks in Transnistria are intended to draw Transnistria into the war in some capacity and coerce Moldova to abandon pro-European policies.

 

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(Snip)

Immediate items to watch

  • Russian forces attacking southeast from Izyum, west from Kreminna and Popasna, and north from Donetsk City will likely make steady but tactical gains against Ukrainian defenders.
  • Russian forces will likely attempt to starve out the remaining defenders of the Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol and will not allow trapped civilians to evacuate but may conduct costly assaults on the remaining Ukrainian defenders to claim a propaganda victory.
  • Russian forces are likely preparing to conduct renewed offensive operations to capture the entirety of Kherson Oblast in the coming days.
  • Russia may continue false-flag attacks in and around Transnistria or move to generate a more serious crisis in Transnistria and Moldova more generally.
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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, April 30

Mason Clark, Karolina Hird, and George Barros

April 30, 5:15pm ET

(Snip)

Key Takeaways

  • A Ukrainian counteroffensive out of Kharkiv City will likely alleviate pressure on parts of the city that have suffered the most from Russian shelling and may force Russian troops from Izyum to re-deploy northward to support forces maintaining the partial encirclement of Kharkiv.
  • Additional Russian forces are deploying to the Izyum front but are unlikely to enable any major advances.
  • Russian troops did not make any confirmed advances to the southwest or southeast of Izyum or to the west of the Donetsk-Luhansk frontline.
  • Russian forces in Kherson are pausing major offensive operations to improve their tactical positions and regroup to prepare for a renewed offensive to capture the administrative borders of Kherson.
  • Russian occupation forces in Mariupol announced plans to consolidate their control over the city and intend to return Ukrainian citizens forcibly deported into Russia at some point in the future.

 

DraftUkraineCoTApril30,2022.png

(Snip)

Immediate items to watch

  • Russian forces attacking southeast from Izyum, west from Kreminna and Popasna, and north from Donetsk City will likely make steady but tactical gains against Ukrainian defenders.
  • Russian forces will likely attempt to starve out the remaining defenders of the Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol and will not allow trapped civilians to evacuate but may conduct costly assaults on remaining Ukrainian defenders to claim a propaganda victory.
  • Russian forces are likely preparing to conduct renewed offensive operations to capture the entirety of Kherson Oblast in the coming days.
  • Russia may continue false-flag attacks in and around Transnistria or might move to generate a more serious crisis in Transnistria and Moldova more generally. 
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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, May 1

Karolina Hird, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan

May 1, 6:15 ET

(Snip)

Key Takeaways

  • Russian occupying forces are setting conditions to allow Russia to permanently govern occupied areas in southern Ukraine, not just in Donbas.
  • Ukrainian forces likely conducted a rocket artillery strike on a Russian command post in Izyum on April 30 that struck after Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov had left but killed other senior Russian officers.
  • Russian forces continue to make incremental advances moving southwestward in the direction of Lyman but are largely stalled against Ukrainian positions on the pre-February 24 frontline.
  • Russian forces continued re-grouping and reconnaissance on the Southern Axis and did not make any confirmed advances.

 

DraftUkraineCoTMay1,2022.png

 

(Snip)

Immediate items to watch

  • Russian attacks from Izyum will likely be at least temporarily disrupted by the attack on the Russian command post in the area.
  • Russian forces will likely attempt to starve out the remaining defenders of the Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol.
  • Russian forces may be preparing to conduct renewed offensive operations to capture the entirety of Kherson Oblast in the coming days.
  • Russian forces may be preparing to attempt an operation to seize Odesa from the east and west, although the success of such an operation is very unlikely.

 

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