January 30, 2024

Institute for the Study of War:  Russian winter offensive now under way in Eastern Ukraine

Institute for the Study of War

The anticipated Russian 2024 winter-spring offensive effort is underway in the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border area. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Head Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov stated on January 30 that the Russian offensive in Ukraine is currently ongoing and that Russian forces aim to reach the Zherebets River (in the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border area) and the administrative borders of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Budanov forecasted that Russian forces would fail to achieve these objectives, however, and would likely be “completely exhausted” by the beginning of the spring. Budanov’s statements are consistent with ISW’s observation that Russian forces have intensified offensive operations along this axis since the beginning of January 2024. Russian forces have recently made tactical gains southeast of Kupyansk along the critical P07 Kupyansk-Svatove route near Krokhmalne and appear to be increasing assaults northwest and west of Krokhmalne towards the Oskil River. Russian forces will likely be able to secure additional tactical-level gains in the Kupyansk area but are unlikely to be able to translate these tactical gains into wider mechanized maneuvers needed for operationally significant advances that could capture more territory in Kharkiv Oblast and push to the Luhansk and Donetsk oblast administrative borders. ISW has observed that elements of the Western Military District’s 1st Guards Tank Army and 6th Combined Arms Army are active in the Kupyansk area and have been able to pursue infantry-led frontal assaults but have not shown the capacity to conduct large-scale mechanized maneuver since they were deployed to this axis over a year ago. ISW will soon publish a more detailed operational analysis of the situation on this Kharkiv-Luhansk axis.

Ukrainian officials continued to deny rumors about the purported dismissal of Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi. Ukrainian Presidential Press Secretary Serhii Nykyforov stated on January 29 that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not dismiss Zaluzhnyi.

Key Takeaways:

  • The anticipated Russian 2024 winter-spring offensive effort is underway in the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border area.
  • Ukrainian officials continued to deny rumors about the purported dismissal of Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi.
  • Russian forces appear to be continuing to violate the Chemical Weapons Convention to which Russia is signatory.
  • Russian Army General Alexander Dvornikov was reportedly appointed the new chairperson of the Russian Volunteer Society for Assistance to the Army, Aviation, and Navy of Russia (DOSAAF).
  • Russian Security Council Deputy Chairperson Dmitry Medvedev made offensive and inflammatory comments about Japan while asserting Russia’s rights to the disputed Kuril Islands, likely as part of wider Kremlin efforts to demonstrate Russia’s support of China against the US alliance system in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Senior Russian officials may be intensifying their attempts to frame and justify Russia’s long term war effort in Ukraine as an existential geopolitical confrontation with the West by explicitly equating the US with the Nazis.
  • Russian opposition sources suggested that widespread internet outages in Russia on January 30 may be the result of Russian efforts to establish the “sovereign internet” system.
  • The Kremlin has been intensifying efforts to consolidate control over the Russian information space in advance of the March 2024 Russian presidential election, and these efforts support the development of the “sovereign internet” system.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Bakhmut and Horlivka amid continued positional engagements along the entire line of contact on January 30.
  • The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) reported that the Russian defense industrial base (DIB) can produce at least 100 main battle tanks per month and is therefore able to replace battlefield losses, allowing Russian forces to continue their current tempo of operations “for the foreseeable future.”
  • Russian authorities are planning to increase the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia in 2024.

    For full report: https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-january-30-2024
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