Talks about the continuation of the mobilization of the Russians and their likely new offensive on Ukraine do not subside. UNIAN asked what options specialists are discussing for a new influx of invaders, and how realistic each of the possible scenarios is.
For almost a year after February 24, 2022, Russia failed to achieve most of its goals in Ukraine. On the one hand, because from the very beginning these goals are demilitarization and denazification – were absurd. On the other hand, it is because the “second army of the world” is quite sensibly receiving from the Ukrainians. So sensitive that Russian propagandists are forced to tell Russians that their troops are fighting NATO mercenaries, that a “special military operation” was launched in order to so that the predatory West does not encroach on the territory of the Russian Federationin Moscow “Pantsyr” air defense systems are being installed to protect the Kremlinand the Russian society, happily going to the mobilization for the “holy war”, prefers not to notice that the “new Hitler” is their president.
However, all this means that Russia has not given up further aggression against Ukraine. According to the chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer, the strategic goals of the Russians have not changed, and this “is the reason why the Russians will probably move to another offensive.”
According to Mykola Beleskov, the chief consultant of the National Institute of Strategic Studies, senior analyst of the Come Back Alive Foundation, several things are pushing Russia to a new offensive attempt.
“Strategically, the problem is that the leadership of our adversary has never learned to soberly assess its own forces, knowing the relevant limitations, and to set tasks in proportion to the available potential and ability to conduct combat operations. If the situation were the opposite, then the Muscovites should have switched to strategic defense, striving to exhaust the Ukrainian forces. But the leadership of our enemy is not able to objectively assess the situation strategically. Moreover, local successes around Bakhmut could convince the military and political leadership of Muscovy that a new tactic has been found that will allow solving tasks at the highest levels of the war with a more massive commitment. But such the statement also raises questions,” he notes.
But, in addition to the strategic and tactical detachment from reality, the Kremlin must resort to active actions because, firstly, of the promised supplies of heavy weapons to Ukraine from the West: “The fact that new armored vehicles and artillery will begin to arrive in the second quarter of 2023 forces the Kremlin to act on preemption. Until Ukraine has mastered the appropriate technique.”
Secondly, the latest steps of the USA and its allies finally show a readiness to play the long game – first of all, this concerns the production of weapons and BC. “In other words, strategically, time is starting to play against Muscovy in the military dimension of the confrontation. And all this in the complex pushes to decisive actions, while some window of opportunity is still open,” – the expert believes.
Can you predict where the enemy will hit?
If we take into account that we are dealing with a country that lives in its own world of distorted logic, then it is hardly possible to accurately predict the nature of hostilities, how events will unfold and where exactly the direction of the main blow may be. The terms of the probable new offensive were called and are called different: the end of January-February, spring, the next six months, eventually, maybe even autumn. But it seems that this will happen when the Kremlin thinks that they have accumulated enough strength.
According to the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi, the new offensive of the Russian Federation can be in any direction. “The attack can come from any side. It can be in the south, it can be in the east. After all, Putin aimed to reach the administrative borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions…” he said in an interview with the German ARD TV channel.
In particular, the desire to repeat the attack on Kyiv cannot be ruled out. At least Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Valery Zaluzhnyi expressed such an assumption. And although currently according to Ukrainian intelligencethe threat from the north is minimal (because no strike group has been created in Belarus yet), it is not worth dismissing the possibility of an attack from there.
“We are not relaxed about the Belarusian direction. But today the threat does not come from Belarus,” Andriy Yusov, representative of the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Ministry of Education, said on the air of the national telethon.
Similar conclusions are drawn by the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW). “ISW’s most dangerous prediction of a potential major Russian offensive into northern Ukraine from Belarus seems increasingly unlikely… ISW assesses the risk of a Russian invasion of Ukraine from Belarus as very low,” the analyst report noted.
According to the Polish general and military expert on battles in Ukraine Waldemar Skshipchakthe topic of an attack from Belarus can only divert the attention of Ukrainians, and in fact, Russia in the north can attack from its own territory: the Russian Federation is accumulating troops in the Bryansk, Kursk and Voronezh regions.
“Russia can strike Ukraine from this direction. Move from there in a southern direction, west of Kharkiv, along the Vorskla River, which flows into the Dnipro,” he notes.
According to him, the target of the Russians may be part of the Kharkiv region, Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson regions.
Former Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, retired Lieutenant General Ihor Romanenko agrees that the main goal of the Russians as of now may be the seizure of Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
“They are already storming in these directions. And if they increase their strength, they will be able to advance further. That is, we can talk about the south of Ukraine only in the context of an attack from the east. However, crossing the Dnieper would be too difficult for the enemy, so an attack from Zaporizhzhia district,” he notes.
However, according to him, even advancing in the south or seizing new territories in the east is not the final task of the Russians. “Will Ukraine proceed to negotiations after this? No. Therefore, they need to find the directions that, in their opinion, could lead to this,” says Ihor Romanenko.
There are two most likely options. “The first is from the north. That is, there are not enough forces there now for effective actions, but they can add them. To advance, for example, from Podillia and thus cut off supplies to Ukraine. Or to pressure Ukraine into negotiations by trying to strike in the northeast , between Sumy and Kharkiv, in the direction of the Dnipro. The second is the “attractive” road to Kyiv for the Russians. However, this scenario is highly unlikely, because we have a fairly serious defense there,” the military expert notes.
However, in his opinion, there is currently no formed strike group in any of these directions. Moreover, the Russians will not be able to attack several strategic directions at once, they simply do not have the strength to do so at the moment.
Mykhailo Samus, deputy director of the Army, Conversion and Disarmament Research Center for International Affairs, expresses a similar opinion: “If they, in the state in which they are now, go to Ukraine simultaneously in several directions, it will be a disaster and a complete defeat of Putin’s army.”
The “Great Offensive” is already underway
A few days ago, military analyst Tom Cooper noted in his article that the “big offensive” about which the information field is buzzing is already “in full swing”: “It’s just not the kind of operation where all forces and means are gathered into a “single fist” and aimed at one point of the front line”.
The expert is convinced that the threats from the Ukrainian defense forces do not give the Russians the opportunity to gather many troops and attack on the relevant part of the front, because a significant concentration of forces to form a “shock fist” (in particular, the concentration of ammunition in large warehouses) would immediately become an excellent target for the Ukrainian long-range artillery Thus, Russia currently has to disperse and hide its resources. And this means that Russia is now organizing not one big offensive, but several smaller ones. “At least, smaller than expected,” notes Tom Cooper and claims that this is exactly the type of Russian operation that could be observed recently in the Vugledara district.
In addition, with unprecedented power the enemy is trying to advance in the Bakhmut direction. Also, according to the Financial Times, the Russian army is now concentrating forces for a “large-scale offensive” (at least for the occupation of the entire Donbas) in the regions of Kreminnaya and Lyman. And there is a build-up of forces in the south of the Donetsk region – additional troops are being transferred to the settlements around Mariupol…
Political scientist Maksym Rozumny draws attention to the fact that the creation of a threat in the form of a “half-million” Russian army close to the Ukrainian borders has another goal. “These threats from Russia look like one of the steps to create the basis for peace negotiations,” he notes.
However, the West responds unambiguously to such a threat: Ukraine will receive weapons to destroy this influx as well. “However, if Putin agrees to withdraw from the Ukrainian south before the Ukrainian defense forces go on a counteroffensive, then the situation may change. So far, this seems unlikely, but, in fact, this is the only available option for the Kremlin to preserve at least something,” says the political scientist .
But despite the fact that Ukrainian forces are also being exhausted in defense, the respite in the war that Russia is seeking will only harm Ukraine. We already had “agreements” “Minsk-1” and “Minsk-2”, so we know well the price of a Russian word. Any long-term “truce” will not only allow the Kremlin to gain a foothold in the territories it has already seized from Ukraine, but also to use the pause to accumulate forces in order to strike again when it is least expected.