Russian war in Ukraine: what's next?

In February, the overall situation on the battlefield remained extremely tense. There was a significant escalation of hostilities in some areas of the frontline.
Volodymyr Solovian

Current situation

In the Kherson region, the tensions may have been characterized as intense counter-battery operations between both sides. The occupants continue to launch artillery attacks against the civilian infrastructure of Kherson, Beryslav, Ochakiv, and other cities on the right bank of the Dnipro. At the same time, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have intensified their fire attack on the Kinburn Spit, a strategically important area, which allows them to institute control over the Black Sea access to the Dnipro delta.

In February, the Russian army intensified missile assault against the city of Zaporizhzhia, indicating attempts to prevent the Ukrainian army from launching a counter-offensive in the South. The Russian forces concentrate their troops near Orikhiv and Huliaipole (Zaporizhzhia region), however, the Ukrainian forces continue to restrain the aggressor's offensive. On the whole, the frontline remained stable in February, with clashes occurring in the "grey zone" separating the forefront positions of the parties.

In the Kharkiv region and northern Luhansk region, Russia seeks to carry out its primary offensive strategy - to push Ukrainian Defence Forces to the left bank of the Oskil River and the Oskil Reservoir. To that end, the Russians have resumed their offensive against Kupiansk, which was liberated during the Kharkiv military operation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in September 2022. Severe and bloody clashes continue in the area of Kreminna (Luhansk region), with no significant progress in recent weeks for both sides.

The most violent battles occurred in the area of Bakhmut and Vuhledar. After the Ukrainian Armed Forces withdrew from Soledar, northeast of Bakhmut, at the end of January, the position of Ukrainian forces in the region became much more complicated. The Russian tactic is to encircle the city, thereby blocking the food and ammunition supply routes that the Ukrainian units depend on. As of early March, the Russians were targeting the main communication lines of Bakhmut's defenders and launching an offensive on the northern flank of the city's defense. At the same time, the Russian Air Force has intensified its activities. Therefore, the Russian military command is trying to compensate for the lack of heavily armored vehicles on the front line through the use of aviation.

At the same time, Russian attempts to seize Vuhledar (Donetsk region) have completely failed. During the assault, the occupants lost hundreds of soldiers and dozens of tanks and armored vehicles. The defeat at Vuhledar had a demoralizing effect on the Russian military and a part of Russian society strongly supporting the war.

Across the Ukraine-Russia border (north-east direction), Russia has concentrated up to 20 tactical battalion groups (17,000 personnel) and continues to hold a group of up to 10,000 servicemen in Belarus. However, these units are under-equipped, and therefore currently lack offensive capabilities.

Regarding the missile terror of Ukraine, there has been a significant decrease of the intensity of attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure over the previous month. This is a sign of the Russian military and political command's admission of failure in the war against Ukraine's energy system, which has demonstrated a significant degree of resilience.
A month of strategic failures of the Russian army

Most military observers have noted that the increased offensive activities of Russian troops are connected to the plans of an operative offensive, whereby the Kremlin is attempting to seize the strategic initiative and prepare the ground for the further occupation of the entire Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The increased attacks of Russian forces since the beginning of 2023 until now can be explained by a number of factors:

- In the strategic dimension, the Russian military command focused on improving the tactical position of its forces before the enhancement of the capabilities of the Ukrainian Armed Forces due to the receipt of a significant amount of Western armored vehicles, including Leopard 2 tanks. Also, as of February 2023, Russian military units formed through the so called "partial mobilization" during the autumn-winter were deployed in the combat zone.

- For tactical reasons, Russia tried to take advantage of the natural conditions, as the frozen soil in the fields of Donbas is hard enough to allow the use of heavily armored vehicles.

- From a political standpoint, the capture of a large population center on the anniversary of the war would have allowed the Kremlin and its propaganda to create the impression of an upcoming victory, which is an important factor in the mobilization of Russian society, where dissatisfaction with the military operation is rapidly growing.

To sum up, it can be stated that Russia failed to achieve any of the aforementioned goals during February.
Short-term outlook:

March and April are likely to be among the most difficult months in the 2023 campaign for the Ukrainian Defence Forces. The formation of offensive reserves of the Armed Forces will continue throughout this period, but their supply with Western weapons and the degree of operational coordination may not be satisfactory for launching combat operations. Therefore, in the upcoming weeks, Ukraine will operate in a strategic defence mode.

The increased attacks on Russian military targets in the strategic rear in February indicate that Ukraine has received domestic strike UAVs capable of flying hundreds of kilometres. It is expected that in the following months, attacks by Ukrainian drones will become regular, further disrupting Russia's military planning and creating pressure on the morale of Russian society.

On the frontline, we can expect the outcome of the battle for Bakhmut in March-April, which is likely to end with the Ukrainian forces withdrawing to new defence lines. On the other hand, the Russian army and the Wagner PMC have suffered significant losses in the area of Bakhmut, so one should expect a rearrangement of Russian forces and a slowdown of the offensive.

Meanwhile, the Russians will proceed with the assault on Vuhledar, as this city is strategically important - it is located at a high point from which the Ukrainian Armed Forces can launch artillery strikes against the enemy's railway communications in the south of Donetsk region.

In the north of the Luhansk region, the Russian army will concentrate on pushing the Ukrainian Defence Forces to the west of Kreminna, towards the Lyman. This city in the north of the Donetsk region is of particular relevance for the Russian command, as control over it would pose a threat to capture the Kramatorsk-Sloviansk agglomeration from the north.
It is also too early to claim that Russia will give up missile attacks. The occupants are adopting new tactics of using UAVs and air balloons to identify the positions of Ukrainian anti-air defence systems, which suggests that they are seeking to boost the effectiveness of missile attacks.

Did you like this article?

© SD Platform 2012 – 2024

The site was developed by activists