January 11, 2024

Institute for the Study of War:  Russia has 460,000 troops in Ukraine — its entire ground combat force

Institute for the Study of War

The reported concentration of the Russian military’s entire combat-capable ground force in Ukraine and ongoing Russian force generation efforts appear to allow Russian forces to conduct routine operational level rotations in Ukraine. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Deputy Chief Major General Vadym Skibitskyi stated on January 11 that Russian forces have 462,000 personnel in Ukraine and that this represents the entire land component of the Russian military. Skibitskyi stated that most Russian units in Ukraine are manned at between 92 and 95 percent of their intended end strength and that the size of the Russian grouping in Ukraine allows Russian forces to conduct rotations throughout the theater. Skibitskyi stated that Russian forces withdraw units that are at 50 percent or less of their intended end strength to rear areas and return them to the front following recovery and replenishment. Russian Security Council Deputy Chairperson Dmitry Medvedev stated on January 11 that the Russian military has successfully replenished Russian forces in Ukraine through an ongoing crypto-mobilization effort that generated over 500,000 new personnel in 2023.

ISW previously observed routine Russian struggles to conduct operational level rotations from the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022 through Ukraine’s summer 2023 counteroffensive. The apparent Russian ability to generate forces at a rate equal to Russian losses likely provides Russian forces the ability to replenish units that the Russian command has withdrawn from the line due to degradation and later return these replenished units to the front. Russian forces maintain the initiative throughout eastern Ukraine, and the absence of Ukrainian counteroffensive operations likely removes pressure on operational deployments that had previously partially restrained the Russians‘ ability to conduct rotations. Russian forces have not seized the battlefield initiative in Kherson Oblast, however, and appear to be degrading units and formations operating near the Ukrainian bridgehead on the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River without making apparent efforts to conduct operational level rotations (although they do appear to conduct tactical-level rotations). Russian forces have conducted several regroupings during localized offensive operations in the Avdiivka, Bakhmut, Lyman, and Kupyansk directions since early October 2023, which likely provided Russian forces time to conduct the rotations Skibitskyi described. ISW has not observed widespread Russian complaints about a lack of rotations throughout the theater since summer 2023, and the overall tempo of Russian operations is consistent with Skibitskyi’s reporting.

Key Takeaways:

  • The reported concentration of the Russian military’s entire combat-capable ground force in Ukraine and ongoing Russian force generation efforts appear to allow Russian forces to conduct routine operational level rotations in Ukraine.
  • Russia’s ability to conduct operational level rotations will likely allow Russian forces to maintain the overall tempo of their localized offensive operations in eastern Ukraine in the near term, but it is unclear if Russian forces will be able to conduct effective rotations in the long term or in the event of intensified Russian offensive efforts or a significant Ukrainian counteroffensive operation.
  • Ukrainian intelligence reported that Russian efforts to expand Russia’s defense industrial base (DIB) have yet to fulfill operational requirements in Ukraine and that munitions shortages will continue to prompt Russia to source supplies from abroad.
  • Freezing temperatures in Ukraine are likely constraining operations along the front but will likely create more favorable terrain for mechanized maneuver warfare as the ground freezes in the coming weeks.
  • Latvia and Estonia announced new military aid packages to Ukraine on January 11.
  • Russia may be setting information conditions for future escalations against Latvia by threatening to punish Latvia for closing a likely base of Russian informational influence in Latvia.
  • European Commission (EC) Defense Industry Spokesperson Johanna Bernsel clarified on January 11 that European Union (EU) member states will be able to produce a million shells per year by spring 2024 but that the delivery of the shells to Ukraine will depend on individual member states.
  • The US Department of Defense (DoD) Office of the Inspector General published a report on January 11 that states that the failure to document certain aid provided to Ukraine in a timely manner is largely due to DoD limitations but that does not suggest that any of the material aid has been misappropriated.
  • Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk announced on January 11 that the Verkhovna Rada withdrew a draft law on mobilization for revisions after discussions between Ukrainian legislators and political and military leadership.
  • A Ukrainian official indicated that the Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) may struggle to compensate for the loss of base infrastructure after allocating naval assets away from the BSF’s main base of Sevastopol in occupied Crimea.
  • Ukrainian and Russian forces continued positional engagements along the entire front.
  • Kremlin newswire TASS reported on January 10 that Russian forces will deploy additional aircraft and vessels and increase the production of hypersonic Kinzhal and Zircon missiles in 2024.
  • The Belarusian Ministry of Emergency Situations stated on January 10 that it sponsored a trip for 35 Ukrainian children from occupied Ukraine to Mogilev for the New Year holiday during which soldiers taught children “the basics of life safety” and how to behave in “extreme situations.”

For full report:  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-january-11-2024 

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