March 6, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Russian forces make confirmed advances in Donetsk and western Zaporizhia

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Lieutenant General Oleksandr Pavlyuk stated on March 6 that Ukraine will try to seize the initiative and conduct unspecified counteroffensive actions in 2024. Pavlyuk stated that Ukrainian forces will aim to stabilize the frontline while degrading Russian forces in order to rotate frontline Ukrainian units to training grounds in the rear for replenishment and restoration. Pavlyuk stated that this will allow Ukraine to create a grouping of forces that will conduct unspecified counteroffensive actions (possibly but not necessarily counteroffensive operations) in 2024. Pavlyuk stated that Russian forces are concentrating offensive efforts near Avdiivka, in the direction of Chasiv Yar (west of Bakhmut), and in the Lyman direction and that Russian forces are trying to maintain a relatively high tempo of offensive operations along the frontline in order to retain the theater-wide initiative. Pavlyuk stated that Russian forces are currently suffering significant losses and assessed that Ukrainian forces will stabilize the frontline in the near future. A Ukrainian effort to contest the initiative in 2024 is operationally sound. Russia will be able to determine the location, time, scale, and requirements of fighting in Ukraine as long as it retains the theater-wide initiative, which may allow Russia to force Ukraine to expend materiel and manpower in reactive defensive operations, denying Ukraine the ability to amass the materiel necessary for future counteroffensive operations. ISW continues to assess that it would be unwise for Ukraine to cede the advantage of the theater-wide initiative to Russia for longer than is necessary.

Continued delays in Western security assistance will likely postpone Ukrainian efforts to regain the theater-wide initiative, however. Materiel shortages are forcing Ukrainian forces to husband materiel and uncertainty about future assistance is likely constraining Ukrainian operational planning. Delays in crucial assistance will force Ukraine to make difficult decisions about how to allocate resources between future operationally significant counteroffensive operations and ongoing Ukrainian defensive operations against Russian attackers who currently hold the initiative. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently stated that Ukrainian forces are planning to conduct counteroffensive operations in 2024 but stressed that Ukraine’s primary objective remains the defense of Ukrainian territory. Zelensky has also stated that Russia is preparing a new offensive effort that will start in late May or summer 2024, which would likely further postpone opportunities for Ukraine to prepare and launch counteroffensive operations. Well-provisioned Ukrainian forces have proven capable of preventing even marginal Russian gains during large-scale Russian offensive efforts and are capable of heavily degrading attacking Russian forces. Western security assistance is crucial for both Ukraine’ ability to concentrate material and manpower for future counteroffensive operations as well as its ability to degrade Russian offensive efforts sufficiently enough so that Ukraine can seize the theater wide initiative.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Lieutenant General Oleksandr Pavlyuk stated on March 6 that Ukraine will try to seize the initiative and conduct unspecified counteroffensive actions in 2024.
  • Russian forces conducted a relatively larger series of drone and missile strikes targeting Ukraine on the night of March 5 to 6 and on March 6, including strikes on Odesa City during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
  • Kremlin officials continue to invoke nuclear threats as part of ongoing Russian information operations aimed at weakening Western support for Ukraine and deterring Western aid to Ukraine.
  • International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director Rafael Grossi and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the security of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) and nuclear non-proliferation issues on March 6 in Sochi, Russia.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the governor of pro-Russian Moldovan autonomous region Gagauzia, Yevgenia Gutsul, on March 6 and emphasized Russia’s support for Gagauzia.
  • Moldova suspended the Cold War-era Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty on March 6.
  • The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reportedly conducted a drone strike on a mining and processing plant in Kursk Oblast on March 6.
  • Armenia appears to be taking limited measures to reduce its bilateral security cooperation with Russia outside of its reduced participation in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Kupyansk and Donetsk City and in western Zaporizhia Oblast. 
  • The Russian legal system continues efforts to use the Russian criminal justice system to augment Russia’s recruitment base.

For full report: 

Share the Post: