May 3, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Russian seeking seize all of Donetsk and Luhansk regions

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian officials continue to highlight that Russia’s main goal for 2024 remains the seizure of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts as Russian forces plan for their Summer 2024 offensive operation. Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Lieutenant General Oleksandr Pavlyuk reiterated during an interview with The Times published on May 3 that Russia’s offensive goals in 2024 are to seize all of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and that Russian forces may attempt to seize the rest of Zaporizhia Oblast in 2024 if they seize Donbas. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Deputy Chief Major General Vadym Skibitskyi stated in an interview with The Economist published on May 2 that Russian forces will likely continue pursuing their longtime goal of reaching the administrative borders of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts over the summer as other Ukrainian officials have recently noted. Pavlyuk reiterated that Russian forces have a plan to seize Kharkiv or Sumy cities but noted that it is unclear how serious this plan is or whether Russian forces will be capable of capturing one or both of the cities. ISW continues to assess that Russian forces would struggle to seize Kharkiv City but that a Russian offensive operation in the area would likely draw and fix Ukrainian forces from other areas of the frontline. Pavlyuk stated that Ukrainian forces are doing everything possible to stop Russian efforts to seize Chasiv Yar but noted that Russian forces have an estimated 10-to-1 artillery advantage over Ukrainian forces and “total air superiority,” likely referring to Russian forces’ ability to indiscriminately conduct glide bomb strikes in the area. Skibitskyi stated on May 2 that Russian forces will not imminently seize Chasiv Yar although it is “probably a matter of time” before the settlement falls, which is consistent with ISW’s assessment that Russian forces may take Chasiv Yar but are unlikely to do so immediately.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that Ukraine is also paying increased attention to the Pokrovsk (Avdiivka) direction, where Russian forces have recently made tactically significant advances and are “pressing” on Ukrainian positions. Zelensky warned that Russian forces are preparing to expand their offensive operations in Ukraine, likely referring to the anticipated Summer 2024 Russian offensive operation, and that Ukraine is facing a “new stage” of the war. Pavlyuk expressed hope that US and European military assistance will arrive in frontline areas in the near future and help blunt Russian assaults this summer and contest the theater-wide initiative in the future.

Key Takeaways

  • Ukrainian officials continue to highlight that Russia’s main goal for 2024 remains the seizure of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts as Russian forces plan for their summer 2024 offensive operation.
  • The first deliveries of resumed US military assistance reportedly arrived in Ukraine earlier this week, although it will likely take several additional weeks before Western weapons and ammunition arrive to frontline areas at scale.
  • Ukrainian officials indicated that Russian forces in Ukraine have not significantly increased in size in recent months but that the Russian military continues to improve its fighting qualities overall despite suffering widespread degradation, especially among elite units since the start of the war.
  • Ukrainian officials indicated that the Russian military will likely maintain its current personnel replacement rate and will not generate the significant number of available personnel needed to establish strategic-level reserves for larger-scale offensive operations in 2024.
  • Pavlyuk stated that neither Russian nor Ukrainian forces will be able to achieve victory in Ukraine solely through attritional warfare – a consistent throughline that Ukrainian officials and military analysts have emphasized in recent months.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu issued a notably candid assessment of recent Russian advances in Ukraine and refrained from sweeping claims about the success of the Russian war effort, possibly in an attempt to temper domestic expectations about Russia’s near future successes in Ukraine ahead of the summer 2024 Russian offensive operation.
  • A Russian insider source, who has routinely been accurate about past Russian military command changes, claimed on May 2 that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has replaced several high-level Russian commanders in recent months.
  • NATO stated on May 2 that it is “deeply concerned” about intensifying Russian hybrid operations on NATO member territory and that these operations constitute a threat to Allied security.
  • UK Foreign Minister David Cameron announced the United Kingdom’s intent to provide long-term support for Ukraine and stated that Ukrainian forces can conduct long-range strikes within Russia with UK-provided weapons.
  • Russian forces recently marginally advanced near Kupyansk, Avdiivka, and Donetsk City.
  • Rostec General Director Sergei Chemezov announced that Russian state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec is increasing its production of all variants of guided glide bombs during a May 3 meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

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