January 14, 2024

Institue for the Study of War: Russian offensive predicted in coming three weeks

Institute for the Study of War

Russian sources claimed that Russian forces are preparing to launch a new offensive in the coming weeks once the ground freezes in eastern and southern Ukraine. 

Russian literary critic and alternative historian Sergey Pereslegin claimed on January 12 that Russian forces will launch a large-scale offensive effort in Ukraine sometime between January 12 and February 2 after the ground freezes and likely after Ukrainian forces grow “exhausted” of defending their positions in Avdiivka and east (left) bank Kherson Oblast. Pereslegin claimed that Russians should be more concerned about Russia launching its offensive at the wrong time or making the same “mistakes” that Ukraine made during its 2023 counteroffensive than of a renewed Ukrainian offensive effort in 2024. 

Pereslegin also expressed concern that Russia does not have enough manpower to conduct the large-scale offensive effort he is anticipating. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed on January 14 that the number of Russian military personnel on the frontline allows Russian forces to conduct localized tactical maneuvers but is unlikely to support operationally significant “breakthroughs.” The milblogger claimed that freezing weather is impacting Russian and Ukrainian ground activity and artillery and drone systems throughout the front, particularly in the Kherson direction. A Russian milblogger claimed on January 12 that freezing weather conditions are preventing Russian forces from conducting ground operations and advancing north of Verbove in western Zaporizhia Oblast. 

The Ukrainian Southern Operational Command reported that Russian aviation is unable to operate in southern Ukraine due to freezing weather conditions. Former Roscosmos (Russian space agency) head and ultranationalist figure Dmitry Rogozin claimed on January 14 that the frontline in western Zaporizhia Oblast is “buzzing like a bee hive” due to the large number of Ukrainian drones operating, however. Rogozin claimed that Ukrainian forces devote half a dozen drones to striking each valuable target in western Zaporizhia Oblast and that intense Ukrainian drone use is complicating Russian personnel rotations. 

ISW previously assessed that freezing temperatures in Ukraine are likely currently constraining operations along the front but will likely create more favorable terrain for mechanized maneuver warfare as the ground freezes in the coming weeks. ISW continues to assess that Russian forces will likely try to sustain or intensify localized offensive operations throughout eastern Ukraine in an attempt to seize and retain the initiative regardless of winter weather and terrain conditions. ISW also assesses, however, that Russian forces will be unable to make operationally significant breakthroughs.

Russian forces likely continue to experiment and adapt their missile and drone strike packages against Ukraine in an effort to penetrate Ukrainian air defenses. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces have recently been launching strikes against Ukraine using a variety of missile types, including hypersonic Kh-47 Kinzhal ballistic missiles. The milblogger claimed that Russian forces launched unspecified air decoys and Shahed drones in order to overwhelm Ukrainian air defense systems so that Russian forces could conduct successful missile strikes. ISW has observed Russian forces experimenting with various combinations of drone and missile strikes in an effort to penetrate Ukrainian air defense systems as Ukrainian forces have adapted to Russian strike patterns. ISW previously assessed that Russia may be intensifying efforts to source ballistic missiles from abroad because ballistic missiles may be more successful in striking targets in Ukraine in some circumstances. Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat stated on January 14 that sanctions are likely reducing the quality of Russian missiles. The reported decrease in quality of Russian missiles may further hinder Russia’s ability to conduct successful strike series against Ukraine.

Key Takeaways:

  • Russian sources claimed that Russian forces are preparing to launch a new offensive in the coming weeks once the ground freezes in eastern and southern Ukraine.
  • Russian forces likely continue to experiment and adapt their missile and drone strike packages against Ukraine in an effort to penetrate Ukrainian air defenses.
  • Representatives from 83 countries met to discuss the implementation of Ukraine’s Peace Formula on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 14.
  • The Kremlin continues to undertake measures to undermine the Republic of Tatarstan’s autonomy within the Russian Federation and cultural heritage despite the republic’s sacrifices on behalf of the Russian war in Ukraine.
  • The Russian Investigative Committee will officially open a case into the fire that destroyed a large Wildberries warehouse in St. Petersburg.
  • Positional engagements continued along the Kupyansk-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut and Avdiivka, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, in western Zaporizhia Oblast, and on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast.
  • Moscow-based international exhibition-forum “Russia” opened the Russian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) “Army of Children” exhibit on January 14 to educate children about the military and careers in the Russian Armed Forces.
  • Swedish Defense Materiel Administration announced on January 14 that it had signed an agreement with Nordic Ammunition Company (Nammo) to increase the production and deliveries of 155mm artillery ammunition to support Ukraine’s needs.
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