January 10, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Kremlin may be planning upheaval in breakaway Transdnistria part of Moldova

Institute for the Study of War

The Kremlin’s effort to use the mythos of the Great Patriotic War (Second World War) to prepare the Russian public for a long war in Ukraine is at odds with Russia’s current level of mobilization and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rhetorical attempts to reassure Russians that the war will not have lasting domestic impacts. St. Petersburg outlet Fontanka published an interview with Russian State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Andrei Kartapolov on January 9 wherein Kartapolov stated that even in the “victorious years of 1944 to 1945” the Soviet forces faced difficulties, prompting the interviewer to ask Kartapolov if Russia was now figuratively in 1944-1945 (i.e. nearing the end of the war in Ukraine). Kartapolov attempted to expand the erroneous analogy between the Soviets’ fight against Nazi Germany and Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by claiming that Russia is currently figuratively somewhere in December 1943 and moving into 1944. The Soviet military launched a series of successful offensive operations following its defensive victory at the battle of Kursk in July 1943 and by December 1943 had reached the banks of the Dnipro River and Kyiv in Ukraine. Kartapolov explained his logic by claiming that Ukrainian forces failed in the summer 2023 counteroffensive in Zaporizhia Oblast in a way similar to Nazi Germany’s losses in battles in 1943. Kartapolov’s analogy makes little sense, particularly given the fact that the Russian forces have not gained notable ground in recent months as the Soviet forces did in the months before December 1943. The interviewer asked Kartapolov if his analogy suggests that Russia’s war in Ukraine will end in 2024, forcing Kartapolov to admit that Russia’s war in Ukraine and the Second World War cannot be literally compared. Kartapolov nevertheless continued to use allusions to the Second World War to claim that the Russian military would continue the war in Ukraine until it installed a “banner over the Reichstag” (i.e. complete victory in Ukraine that achieves all of Putin’s maximalist objectives). 

Key Takeaways:

  • The Kremlin’s effort to use the mythos of the Great Patriotic War (Second World War) to prepare the Russian public for a long war in Ukraine is at odds with Russia’s current level of mobilization and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rhetorical attempts to reassure Russians that the war will not have lasting domestic impacts.
  • The Kremlin may be instructing actors in the Russian-backed breakaway republic of Transnistria to set information conditions for a possible false-flag operation in Transnistria as part of wider Kremlin efforts to destabilize Moldova.
  • The Kremlin may also be reviving its efforts to leverage Transnistria to create instability in Moldova in order to undermine Ukrainian grain exports along the western coast of the Black Sea.
  • Iran has reportedly developed a new Shahed drone for Russian forces to use against Ukraine and is “close” to providing Russia with surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and systems.
  • European Union (EU) Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton stated that the EU will be able to supply Ukraine with one million shells by spring 2024.
  • Lithuania announced a new long-term military aid package to Ukraine worth 200 million euros (about $220 million) on January 10.
  • The very characteristics that make the Russian ultranationalist milblogger community popular – its perceived independence from and willingness to criticize the Russian government – likely continue to complicate the Kremlin’s efforts to co-opt the community as Kremlin mouthpieces.
  • Russian insider sources continue to discuss the reported removal of First Deputy Head of the Main Directorate of the Russian General Staff (GRU), Lieutenant General Vladimir Alekseyev, who was reportedly in charge of the Russian “Volunteer Corps” that was intended to replace the Wagner Group in Ukraine.
  • Russian forces advanced southwest of Bakhmut and Donetsk City and in the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast amid continued positional engagements along the entire front.
  • Russian Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov stated on January 10 that the Russian military plans to reorganize the five existing naval infantry brigades of Russia’s fleets into naval infantry divisions and the Caspian Flotilla’s naval infantry regiment into a naval infantry brigade in the medium-term.
  • Russian authorities continue to deport prisoners from prisons in occupied Ukraine to Russia and are likely using penal colonies as part of widespread efforts to collect data on Ukrainian citizens.

For full report:  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-january-10-2024 

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