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The BCFA Archive dates back to February 2022. Our archives allow members to study information preceding the most recent reports in order to gain full understanding regardless of their current familiarity with the topic of interest.

Institute for the Study of War: Ukraine downs three Russian fighter aircraft in 24 hours, for a total of 13 aircraft in 12 days

Ukrainian officials are reportedly concerned about the possibility of significant Russian territorial gains in summer 2024 in the event of continued delays in Western security assistance. Bloomberg reported that internal Ukrainian assessments state that Russian advances along the frontline could gain significant momentum by summer 2024 unless Ukraine’s partners increase provisions of

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Russian Ministry of Defense:  Up to 1,170 Ukrainian troops killed or wounded in 24 hours

The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation continue the special military operation. In Kupyansk direction, units of the Zapad Group of Forces improved the tactical situation and delivered strikes at enemy manpower and hardware near Sinkovka (Kharkov region) and Terny (Donetsk People’s Republic). Up to 50 Ukrainian troops, one tank, two armoured fighting vehicles, and three motor vehicles were neutralised.

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Russian Ministry of Defense:  up to 695 Ukrainian troops killed or wounded in 24 hours 

The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation continue the special military operation. In Kupyansk direction, units of the Zapad Group of Forces improved the tactical situation and delivered strikes at enemy manpower and hardware near Sinkovka (Kharkov region). In addition, seven attacks launched by assault detachments of the AFU 32nd Mechanised Brigade, 77th Air Mobile Brigade, 95th Air

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Russian Ministry of Defense:  up to 1,105 Ukrainian troops killed or wounded in 24 hours

In Kupyansk direction, units of the Zapad Group of Forces took more advantageous positions, as well as inflicted losses on AFU manpower and hardware near Sinkovka and Ivanovka (Kharkov region). In addition, two counterattacks launched by assault detachments of the AFU 95th Air Assault Brigade were repelled near Terni (Donetsk People’s Republic). The AFU losses amounted to up to 30 Ukrainian troops, two motor vehicles, one Akatsiya self-propelled artillery

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Institue for the Study of War:  Russian forces make confirmed gains in Kreminna, Bakhmut, and Avdiivka

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed two decrees on February 26 that officially re-establish the Moscow and Leningrad Military Districts, codifying major Russian military restructuring and reform efforts. Putin signed one decree that deprives Russia’s Northern Fleet (NF) of its status as an “interservice strategic territorial organization” (a joint headquarters in Western

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February 29, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Ukraine downs three Russian fighter aircraft in 24 hours, for a total of 13 aircraft in 12 days

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian officials are reportedly concerned about the possibility of significant Russian territorial gains in summer 2024 in the event of continued delays in Western security assistance. Bloomberg reported that internal Ukrainian assessments state that Russian advances along the frontline could gain significant momentum by summer 2024 unless Ukraine’s partners increase provisions of artillery ammunition.[1] Bloomberg reported that sources close to Ukrainian leadership stated that Ukraine expects Russian forces to decide between continuing their current focus on gradual tactical advances and preparing for a larger breakthrough attempt in summer 2024 depending on the results of current Russian offensive operations.[2] Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated on February 25 that Russian forces are preparing for a new offensive effort that will start in late May or summer 2024.[3] Russian forces are currently trying to exploit tactical opportunities offered by the Russian seizure of Avdiivka and are attempting to push as far as possible in the area before Ukrainian forces establish harder-to-penetrate defensive lines.[4] Russian forces may determine to adjust future offensive operations based on the level of success they have in attacking subsequent Ukrainian defensive lines west and northwest of Avdiivka, and Ukrainian defenses in the Avdiivka area may impact Russian perceptions of the wider state of Ukraine’s defense along the frontline. Russian forces are also conducting a multi-axis offensive operation along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line but have not made any recent significant gains in the area, and the relative success or failure of that effort could similarly influence how the Russian military command views Russian prospects for operationally significant advances.[5] The Russian ability to make operationally significant advances is still largely dependent on the level of Western support for Ukraine, however, as well-provisioned Ukrainian forces have proven that they can prevent Russian forces from making even marginal gains during large-scale Russian offensive efforts.[6]

Bloomberg also reported that Ukrainian intelligence assessments stated that Russian Vladimir Putin has not given up his original goal of seizing major Ukrainian cities such as Kyiv and Odesa.[7] Putin has recently falsely claimed that Odesa is a “Russian city” and other Russian officials have also applied that expression to Dnipro, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, and Kyiv cities.[8] The Kremlin has resumed expansionist rhetoric in recent months that explicitly calls for the occupation and annexation of additional Ukrainian territory.[9] The Kremlin has intentionally framed this rhetoric to avoid setting limits for further Russian expansion in Ukraine, and this rhetoric may aim to allow Putin to introduce new objectives for conquest in Ukraine when he sees fit.[10]

Russian President Vladimir Putin used his February 29 address to the Federal Assembly to attempt to convince the Russian public that his next term as president will be defined by Russian military success in Ukraine but not at the expense of stagnating or decreased social and economic welfare. Putin stated that Russian combat capabilities have increased “many times over” and that Russian forces “firmly hold the initiative, confidently advance in a number of operational areas” and capture “more territory.”[11] Putin’s characterization of Russian offensive operations in Ukraine is notably more confident than his December 14, 2023, Direct Line statement that Russian forces were in “the active stage of action.”[12] Putin’s willingness to publicly portray his apparent confidence in Russian offensive operations likely stems from Russia’s recent seizure of Avdiivka and prolonged US debates about military aid to Ukraine. Putin spent most of the speech not focusing on the war but instead detailing the specifics of economic policies and social programs he plans to launch.[13] Russia has increased defense spending to record levels in 2024, and Putin is likely stressing his plans for economic and social policies to assuage persisting domestic concerns about the ramifications of Putin’s war in Ukraine for ordinary Russians.[14] Putin attempted to further address these concerns by claiming that the West is attempting to draw Russia into an arms race as the West successfully did with the Soviet Union in the 1980s to the detriment of the Soviet Union’s economy. Putin emphasized, however, that the Russian government is taking measures to develop the Russian defense industrial base (DIB) while increasing social and economic spending, likely in an effort to demonstrate to the Russian public that Russia has measures in place to avoid ballooned defense spending reminiscent of the Soviet Union before its collapse. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov stated that Putin’s Federal Assembly speech was largely his election program for the March 2024 presidential elections.[15] Putin’s apparent growing confidence in discussing the war publicly has not generated any notable inflections in his overall framing of the war in Ukraine, and Putin continues to issue the same justifications and maximalist goals for his full-scale invasion of Ukraine as he has offered all along.

Putin used tired rhetoric about negotiations and nuclear saber rattling during his Federal Assembly speech, likely to seize on Western attention to the speech to promote ongoing Kremlin information operations. Putin reiterated his feigned readiness for dialogue with the United States on issues of “strategic stability” and continued to place the onus for a lack of negotiations on the United States.[16] Putin asserted that if the United States wants to discuss important issues of security, then it is necessary to consider Russia’s national interests.[17] Putin continues to pursue maximalist objectives in Ukraine that amount to full Ukrainian capitulation and aims to weaken and dismantle NATO, objectives that he most certainly views as integral parts of Russian national interests.[18] The Kremlin is currently conducting an information operation feigning interest in negotiations to prompt preemptive Western concessions regarding Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.[19] Putin also emphasized that Russia possesses weapons that can strike Western countries and claimed that Western escalation is threatening a possible nuclear conflict that could destroy civilization.[20] Putin and Russian officials frequently invoke nuclear threats to instill fear in Western audiences and weaken Western support for Ukraine.[21] The Kremlin has not engaged in any significant escalations in response to the provision of new Western systems to Ukraine, and ISW continues to assess that Russian nuclear use in Ukraine and beyond is highly unlikely.[22]

Putin emphasized the Kremlin’s domestic focus on 2024 as the “Year of the Family” to address Russia’s ongoing demographic crisis during his Federal Assembly address. Putin claimed that the main purpose of a family is to have children, a more overt acknowledgement of Russia’s ongoing demographic crisis than he made in his December 31, 2023, New Year’s address.[23] Putin stated on February 29 that all levels of Russian government, civil society, and religious leaders should contribute to the societal, economic, cultural, and educational efforts to promote Russian birth rates. Putin announced a new Russian government project called “Family” to provide social support to families with children and increase the Russian birth rate. The initiatives include expanding and increasing existing social benefits, including providing maternity capital payments to mothers, giving preferential mortgage rates to families with children, and giving tax deductions to children to families with more than one child. The Kremlin’s focus on 2024 as the “Year of the Family” is likely meant to provide an ideological basis for efforts aimed at increasing Russian birth rates and remedying Russian demographic issues through appeals to Russian “traditional values.” ISW continues to assess that Russia’s war in Ukraine has impacted some aspects of Russian demographics, although Russia has been experiencing a demographic crisis for decades.[24]

Putin did not respond to the February 28 request from the Congress of Deputies from pro-Russian Moldovan breakaway region Transnistria, but this lack of response still affords the Kremlin several possible courses of action (COA) at a later time. The Transnistrian Congress of Deputies adopted seven decisions that provide the Kremlin with justifications for a large range of possible escalatory actions against Moldova that the Kremlin can choose to pursue in the near or long term, and many of these possible COAs are not mutually exclusive.[25] Putin’s lack of response during his February 29 address is either consistent with or does not rule out all five possible Russian COAs that ISW outlined in its February 28 assessment, including the assessed most likely COA (MLCOA) of intensifying hybrid operations to destabilize Moldova and the assessed most dangerous COA (MDCOA) of formally annexing Transnistria in the future to justify military action against Moldova in the long term.[26]

Ukrainian forces downed three more Su-34 fighter aircraft in eastern Ukraine on February 28 and 29. Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Lieutenant General Oleksandr Pavlyuk reported on February 29 that Ukrainian forces destroyed two Su-34 aircraft on the night of February 28 to 29 and another Su-34 on the morning of February 29 in the Mariupol and Avdiivka directions.[27] Pavlyuk noted that the aircraft were conducting glide bomb strikes against Ukrainian infantry in eastern Ukraine when Ukrainian forces downed the aircraft.[28] Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat stated that Russian forces have deployed an unspecified large number of aircraft to conduct glide bomb strikes in the Avdiivka direction.[29] The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (MoD) reported that Ukrainian forces have downed 13 Russian aircraft since February 17.[30] The International Institute for Strategic Studies previously estimated that Russia has roughly 300 various Sukhoi fighter aircraft, suggesting that the impact of losing 13 aircraft in almost as many days, and possibly some of their highly trained pilots, is not negligible for the Russian military.[31] Ukrainian forces have also downed two A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft in 2024 so far.[32]

The Kremlin continues to assert its self-arrogated right to enforce Russian federal law on citizens of NATO member and former Soviet states over actions taken within the territory of their own countries. The Russian Investigative Committee announced on February 28 that a Russian court convicted a Latvian citizen in absentia for fighting as a volunteer with the Ukrainian military against Russia and for desecrating a Soviet memorial in Latvia.[33] The Investigative Committee claimed that the Latvian citizen acted out of “political and ideological hatred of Russia,” and the court sentenced the man to 10 years in prison in absentia.[34] The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) previously placed several dozen government officials from NATO countries on Russia’s wanted list because of alleged violations of Russian federal law committed outside the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation.[35] Russia, however, does not have the legal authority to prosecute foreign citizens for allegedly violating Russian laws in foreign states. ISW previously assessed that Russian criminal accusations against European officials and citizens may be part of an ongoing Russian effort to set informational conditions justifying possible Russian escalations against NATO states in the future.[36]

Russian officials and Kremlin mouthpieces also accused Latvian authorities of “intimidating” Russian citizens voting in the Russian presidential election in Latvia on February 29. Latvian Minister of Justice Inese Libina-Egnere stated on February 27 that Latvian authorities cannot prevent Russian citizens from voting at the Russian embassy, but noted that Latvia’s Criminal Code considers the “justification of war” (in this case Russia’s war in Ukraine) to be criminally liable.[37] Russian sources seized on Libina-Egnere’s statements on February 29 and falsely claimed that Latvian authorities may criminally prosecute Russian citizens for voting in the presidential election.[38]

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is a threat to Armenian security as Russian officials refused to acknowledge Armenia’s reduced participation in the CSTO. Pashinyan stated on February 28 that the CSTO is creating security problems instead of fulfilling its obligations to Armenia and that the CSTO’s “lack of an answer” regarding its responsibilities to Armenia “creates a threat” to Armenia’s “security and territorial integrity.”[39] Pashinyan previously stated that Armenia has “essentially” frozen its participation in the CSTO because the organization “failed to fulfill its obligations in the field of security” to Armenia, particularly in 2021 and 2022.[40] Pashinyan noted on February 28 that Armenia has not had a permanent representative to the CSTO in the past year and that Armenian officials and forces have not participated in CSTO events and exercises in “a long time.”[41] ISW previously observed that Armenia appeared to be effectively abstaining from participation in the CSTO after Pashinyan and other Armenian representatives did not attend several consecutive CSTO events in mid to late 2023.[42] Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Spokesperson Maria Zakharova stated on February 28 that Russia “does not accept” Armenia’s non-compliance with the CSTO agreement.[43]

The Kremlin has reportedly established high-level positions in all federal bodies to promote patriotism and history within each body, likely aimed at strengthening informational and ideological control over federal employees. Russian opposition outlet Meduza reported on February 29 that leaked Russian government documents indicate that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree in February 2023 establishing a “deputy head of social and political work” in each Russian federal body and that the presidential administration must approve each appointment for the position.[44] Meduza reported that the Russian Environmental Management Agency has published guidelines for conducting socio-political work including strengthening Russian patriotism and civic identity and ensuring understanding and support for Russia’s domestic and international policies.[45] The Russian Environmental Management Agency identified methods to educate federal employees about the military and political situations both in Russia and in the world as well as Russian history, including the development stages of Russian international policy, the history of wars and military conflicts, and the formation of Russian statehood. Meduza reported that the leaked documents indicate that these measures are considered necessary to counter the “deliberately distorted ideological intervention” from media allegedly funded by unfriendly states and that the Russian Ministry of Education has outlined similar proposals to tighten control over Russian universities.[46] These measures are likely part of a longstanding Kremlin effort to consolidate control over the broader Russian informational and cultural sphere beginning with employees in federal governmental bodies. Russian news outlet Kommersant reported in April 2022 that the Kremlin began considering the idea of creating these deputy heads of information and political work sometime in 2021 and began moving forward on the effort in 2022 after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine prompted the Kremlin to prioritize the effort.[47]

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian officials are reportedly concerned about the possibility of significant Russian territorial gains in Summer 2024 in the event of continued delays in Western security assistance.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin used his February 29 address to the Federal Assembly to attempt to convince the Russian public that his next term as president will be defined by Russian military success in Ukraine but not at the expense of stagnating or decreased social and economic welfare.
  • Putin used tired rhetoric about negotiations and nuclear saber rattling during his Federal Assembly speech likely to seize on Western attention to the speech to promote ongoing Kremlin information operations.
  • Putin emphasized the Kremlin’s domestic focus on 2024 as the “Year of the Family” to address Russia’s ongoing demographic crisis during his Federal Assembly address.
  • Putin did not respond to the February 28 request from the Congress of Deputies from pro-Russian Moldovan breakaway region Transnistria, but this lack of response still affords the Kremlin several possible courses of action (COA) at a later time.
  • Ukrainian forces downed three more Su-34 fighter aircraft in eastern Ukraine on February 28 and 29.
  • The Kremlin continues to assert its self-arrogated right to enforce Russian federal law on citizens of NATO member and former Soviet states over actions taken within the territory of their own countries.
  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is a threat to Armenian security as Russian officials refused to acknowledge Armenia’s reduced participation in the CSTO.
  • The Kremlin has reportedly established high-level positions in all federal bodies to promote patriotism and history within each body, likely aimed at strengthening informational and ideological control over federal employees.
  • Russian forces made confirmed advances near Avdiivka amid continued positional engagements along the frontline on February 29.
  • Russian state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Head Sergei Chemezov stated on February 29 that Rostec plans to produce A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft on an unspecified schedule because Russian forces require more A-50 aircraft.
  • Occupation officials continue to support Kremlin efforts to gain further control over religious groups in occupied Ukraine.
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