December 1, 2022

Institute for the Study of War:More incremental gains for Russian forces around Bakhmut

Institute for the Study of War

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko continued to set informational conditions to resist Russian pressure to enter the war against Ukraine by claiming that NATO is preparing to attack Belarus. Lukashenko blamed Ukraine and NATO for a growing number of provocations near the Belarus-Ukrainian border and stated that Ukraine is trying to drag NATO forces into the war.[1] Lukashenko stated that Belarusian officials managed to deter a potential adversary from using military force against Belarus and that NATO is building up forces and intensifying combat training in neighboring countries.[2] The Belarusian Minister of Defense Viktor Khrenin stated that there is no direct preparation for war and that Belarus will only defend its territory.[3] Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) representative Vadym Skibitsky reported that there are no signs of the formation of a strike group on Belarusian territory.[4] Lukashenko and Khrenin likely made the comments to bolster what ISW has previously assessed as an ongoing information operation aimed at fixing Ukrainian forces on the border with Belarus in response to the threat of Belarus entering the war.[5] Lukashenko and Khrenin also likely focused the information operation on supposed NATO aggression and provocative activities along the Belarusian border to suggest that the Belarusian military needs to remain in Belarus to defend against potential NATO aggression, and thus set informational conditions for resisting Russian pressure to enter the war in Ukraine. ISW continues to assess that Belarusian entry into the Russian war on Ukraine is extremely unlikely.

Key Takeaways

  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko continued to set informational conditions to resist Russian pressure to enter the war against Ukraine.
  • Russian forces continued efforts to defend against Ukrainian counteroffensive operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces continued to make incremental gains around Bakhmut and to conduct offensive operations in the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area.
  • Russian forces continued to conduct defensive measures and move personnel on the east bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast.
  • Russian military movements in Zaporizhia Oblast may suggest that Russian forces cannot defend critical areas amidst increasing Ukrainian strikes.
  • Russian forces are holding reserves in Crimea to support defensive operations in Zaporizhia Oblast and on the east bank of the Dnipro River.
  • The Kremlin’s financial strain continues to feed domestic unrest.
  • Evidence persists regarding the continuation of partial mobilization in the face of low morale and high desertion rates amongst Russian troops.
  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin continued attempts to bolster the Wagner Group’s reputation.
  • Russian occupation officials continued efforts to integrate occupied territories into the Russian financial and legal spheres.
  • Russian forces continued to exploit Ukrainian civilians and civilian infrastructure in support of Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.

()For full report
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