April 3, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Russia steps up mechanized ground assaults as Ukraine waits for U.S. arms deliveries to resume

Institute for the Study of War

Russian forces appear to have increased the number and size of mechanized ground assaults on select sectors of the frontline within the past two weeks, marking a notable overall increase in Russian mechanized assaults across the theater. Ukrainian officials stated on March 20 that Ukrainian forces repelled a large Russian assault in the Lyman direction and published geolocated footage showing Ukrainian forces damaging or destroying several Russian armored vehicles east of Terny (west of Kreminna). Ukrainian forces later defeated a battalion-sized Russian mechanized assault near Tonenke (west of Avdiivka) on March 30 to which Russian forces reportedly committed at least 36 tanks and 12 BMP infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs). A Ukrainian serviceman stated that Ukrainian forces destroyed 12 Russian tanks and eight IFVs during the assault near Tonenke, and Russian forces have likely only conducted one other mechanized assault of that scale along the entire frontline since the beginning of the Russian campaign to seize Avdiivka in October 2023, which was also near Terny on January 20. Geolocated footage published on April 3 shows Ukrainian forces repelling a roughly reinforced platoon-sized mechanized Russian assault near Terny. The April 3 footage is likely recent and is distinct from the March 20 footage of Russian assaults near Terny. Russian forces may be intensifying mechanized assaults before muddy terrain becomes more pronounced in the spring and makes mechanized maneuver warfare more difficult. Russian forces may also be intensifying mechanized assaults to take advantage of Ukrainian materiel shortages before the arrival of expected Western security assistance.

Russian forces may be intensifying the overall tempo of their offensive operations in Ukraine. The intensification of Russian mechanized assaults has occurred generally at the same time as intensified missile and drone strikes against Ukrainian energy facilities. Russian forces escalated its strike campaign in Ukraine by beginning a new pattern of striking hydroelectric power plants around March 22, for example. Russian forces may be intensifying strikes to further pressure the Ukrainian command to deploy air defense systems away from the front in order to more safely intensify aviation operations in support of ground operations. Ukrainian military observer Kostyantyn Mashovets reported that Russian forces have been gradually moving materiel and personnel to frontline positions in small increments making it difficult for Ukrainian forces to monitor Russian force accumulations, suggesting that Russian forces have been preparing for larger-scale assault operations. US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell stated on April 3 that the US assesses that Russia has “almost completely reconstituted militarily” over the past several months, suggesting that Russia is preparing and may already have sufficient manpower and materiel to significantly intensify ongoing offensive operations or initiate offensive efforts in new areas of the theater.

Key Takeaways:

  • Russian forces appear to have increased the number and size of mechanized ground assaults on select sectors of the frontline within the past two weeks, marking a notable overall increase in Russian mechanized assaults across the theater.
  • Russian forces may be intensifying the overall tempo of their offensive operations in Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian sources continue to stress that the piecemeal and delayed arrival of new Western systems to Ukraine will allow Russian forces to adapt to and offset the likely operational benefits these systems would otherwise provide to Ukrainian forces.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that the March 22 Crocus City Hall attack has caused a significant increase in Russian contract service applicants amid reported Russian efforts to increase force generation this spring.
  • Republic of Tatarstan Head Rustam Minnikhanov warned that Russian companies and local authorities must defend themselves against Ukrainian drone strikes and not rely on Russian air defenses following the April 2 Ukrainian strikes on Russian military production and oil refinery infrastructure in Tatarstan.
  • Russian-backed former Ukrainian separatist politician Oleg Tsaryov complained on April 3 that no current Russian political party adequately represents the political interests of Russian ultranationalists, highlighting a possible source of discontent between the pro-Russian ultranationalist community and the Kremlin.
  • Ukraine and Finland signed a 10-year bilateral security agreement on April 3.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Bakhmut and Donetsk City and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area.
  • Russian authorities continue to expand social benefits for Russian military personne

 For full report:  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-april-3-2024 

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