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War in Ukraine. Donbas – Russian progress, HEI analysis

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In its latest analysis, the Institute for War Research (ISW) concluded that the lack of significant progress by the occupiers in operations undertaken in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions (with the exception of Bakhmut) may be a confirmation of Russia’s inability to carry out an effective offensive through mechanized maneuvers.

“Discrepancy between limited but significant progress Russia in the Bakhmut area and no significant progress elsewhere Ukraine may be a confirmation of the theses of (Russian – ed.) ‘war bloggers’ and the opinion of the Ukrainian side that Russian forces are unable to ensure rapid progress through traditional mechanized maneuvers” – assessed the American Institute of Internal Affairs in the latest report.

According to the think tank, this is indicated by the situation on the front. In the Bakhmut area, where Russia engages elite units operating in small detachments through infiltration, the Russians are having tactical successes that could lead to operational progress if the Ukrainians leave Bakhmut.

Ukraine, BakhmutMarek M. Berezowski/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

“Russian attacks in other places in the Donetsk region and along the Svatov-Kreminna line (Luhansk region) have brought little progress, so far of no operational significance,” the ISW assessed.

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“It seems that the Russian army failed to prepare reservists”

Analysts assessed that the Russian side engages groups based on mechanized components, marines and tanks for traditional mechanized maneuvers. These formations, the think tank noted, proved incapable of fighting effectively in the earlier stages of the war and were probably recreated by supplementing them with military personnel from mobilization.

“It seems that the Russian army failed to prepare the reservists from the enlistment (announced in September – ed.) to conduct effective mechanized offensive operations” – experts assessed. The lack of appropriate equipment and ammunition also contributes to this.

Russian prisoner captured in Donbas (January 2023)Diego Herrera Carcedo/Abaca/PAP

According to ISW, the Russians are probably not able to extend their tactics from Bakhmut to other sections, because it is based on actions adapted to urban conditions, and also because it does not have the appropriate number of elite formations.

However, ISW refrained from categorical predictions about further mechanized attacks by Russia, because, as noted, few recordings are available showing Russia’s tactics along the entire front line.

The American think tank cited the opinions of the Ukrainian military authorities and Russian pro-war bloggers, saying that Russia, with the current state of its army, does not have the ability to conduct a large-scale offensive in the Donetsk region. He assessed the situation as representative of the Ukrainian military intelligence Andriy Chernyak, pointing out that Russia does not have the appropriate capabilities for a large operation. In his opinion, the Russians are preparing to intensify their attacks in eastern Ukraine in the coming weeks, and for this purpose they are looking for weak spots in the Ukrainian defense.

TVN24 reporter Artur Molęda from Ukraine about the recent air raids of the occupiers (February 12, 2023)TVN24, Reuters

The Institute of Internal Affairs reminded that the Russians managed to regain the initiative in the Svatowo-Kreminna area, but the offensive activities there have not yet reached full speed.

ISW: tactical failures weakened the faith of ultranationalist circles

The center also drew attention to critical statements from Russian pro-war circles. According to ISW, Russia’s tactical defeats near Wuhledar in the Donetsk region (where the attacks were to be repelled and resulted in heavy losses in people and equipment) “probably weakened the faith of ultranationalist circles in the ability to carry out a decisive offensive operation.”

After recordings of the failed attack near Wuhledar surfaced, Russian “war bloggers” criticized the Ministry of Defense for repeating the same mistakes that had plagued the Russian army during the previous war.

Main photo source: Marek M. Berezowski/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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