February 10, 2024

Institute for the Study of War:  Zelenskyy appoints new Chief of the General Staff

Institute for the Study of War

Delays in Western security assistance may lead to significant Ukrainian air defense missile shortages that could allow Russian forces to bomb Ukrainian forces or even front-line cities more aggressively. The New York Times reported on February 9 that American officials assess that Ukrainian air defense missile stocks will run out in March 2024 without further replenishment by Western security assistance. Ukrainian officials have recently warned that Ukraine is facing a “critical shortage” of air defense missiles as delays in Western aid continue to force Ukraine to husband materiel. Russian forces have routinely pressured Ukraine’s limited air defense umbrella through missile and drone strikes integrating Iranian and North Korean weapons with Russian systems against rear Ukrainian areas in an effort to force Ukrainian forces to expend air defense missiles and to draw and fix Ukrainian air defense systems away from the frontline. Ukrainian forces previously shot down tactical Russian aircraft in Kherson Oblast in December 2023, which had a temporary chilling effect on Russian aviation support for Russian ground operations throughout the theater. Ukrainian forces also shot down a Russian A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft on January 14 which similarly led to a temporary decrease in Russian aviation operations over the Sea of Azov. The intensification of the Russian strike campaign in recent weeks likely further pressured Ukraine’s air defense umbrella and may have forced Ukraine to redeploy air defenses that were previously able to place constraints on Russian tactical aviation operating along the front and in the Russian rear.

Russian aviation reportedly intensified operations supporting Russian offensive operations in eastern Ukraine in January 2024, particularly near Avdiivka, suggesting that limited Ukrainian air defense missile stocks may be giving Russian aviation more opportunities to attack. Critical Ukrainian shortages of air defense missiles could permit Russian forces to operate aircraft, especially manned aircraft that generally carry heavier payloads, closer to and beyond the current frontline in Ukraine at scale. The Russian military has yet to conduct consistent large-scale aviation operations supporting Russian ground offensives in Ukraine, and the intensification of Russian aviation operations at scale would represent a significant threat to Ukraine.

Key Takeaways:

  • Delays in Western security assistance may lead to significant Ukrainian air defense missile shortages that could allow Russian forces to bomb Ukrainian forces or even front-line cities more aggressively.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appointed Major General Anatoliy Barhylevych as Chief of the Ukrainian General Staff, replacing Lieutenant General Serhiy Shaptala.
  • Russian drone footage published on February 9 showed Russian forces executing Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) near Klishchiivka in the Bakhmut direction.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated several Kremlin narratives aimed at justifying Russia’s war in Ukraine and threatening the West at a ceremony honoring Diplomats’ Day on February 10.
  • Kremlin mouthpieces reiterated ongoing Russian narratives blaming the West, specifically the United States, for the absence of constructive peace negotiations to end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, despite numerous Russian statements indicating that Russia is not interested in good-faith peace negotiations with Ukraine.
  • The Russian State Duma is considering a bill aimed at further censoring actors designated as “foreign agents,” likely aimed at censoring dissent from opposition media outlets and prominent information space voices.
  • Russian forces made confirmed advances near Kreminna and Avdiivka.
  • The relatives of mobilized Russian soldiers continue to protest throughout Russia despite previous Kremlin efforts to censor similar protests and suppress any possible resurgence of a broader social movement in support of mobilized Russian soldiers.
  • Russian and occupation officials continue to set conditions for the deportation of Ukrainian children from occupied Ukraine through educational and extracurricular schemes.

For full report: https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-february-10-2024

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