Russian forces in Ukraine have failed to meet a key deadline for progress in eastern Ukraine before a prolonged counteroffensive from Kiev, according to a new assessment.
The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said on Saturday that Moscow had not succeeded in “achieving the Kremlin’s goals” of establishing control over the Donetsk and Luhansk regions by March 31.
The two regions, which collectively make up Donbass, saw fighting break out between Kiev and Russian-backed separatists in 2014. They have seen many of the fiercest clashes since the start of the all-out war in February 2022.
Andrey Yusov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s secret service, said Moscow had not achieved its goals of “capturing Donbass by the end of March”.
“The usual appointments and tasks that Putin set for the occupation corps in Ukraine in particular [Russian Chief of General Staff] He added in a press release that Valery Gerasimov, after being appointed in charge of the war in Ukraine, had failed.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Saturday that Gerasimov took command of Russian operations in Ukraine in early January, leading a “general winter offensive” to capture Donetsk and Luhansk.
“After eighty days, it is increasingly clear that this project has failed,” the government ministry said in its daily update.
The slowness of the Russian advance on the cities of Bakhmut and Avdiivka in Donetsk was noted by the influential mailblogger community, who opined that Moscow could not continue a “large-scale offensive operation” without capturing Bakhmut and Avdiivka in the coming weeks, the ISW writes.
The city of Bakhmut in the Donbass has long witnessed bitter fighting between the forces of Kiev and Moscow. Avdiivka, located north of the city of Donetsk, is also part of Russia’s “major efforts” in Ukraine, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said Sunday.
Russian forces must end their operations in Bakhmut and Avdiivka before the expected Ukrainian counter-attack in the next six weeks, the Russian Institute writes.
Reports of a decisive Ukrainian campaign in the spring to recapture Russian-held territories circulated across Ukraine. But Ukrainian officials stressed the importance of Western supplies before such an operation was attempted.
As Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov suggested in late March, it would depend on weather conditions. Speaking to the Estonian media, Reznikov hinted that recently received shipments of tanks that comply with NATO standards could play a role when launching a counterattack.
“It is possible that the arrival of the equipment in Ukraine could set the conditions for a Ukrainian counterattack,” the ISW wrote on March 29.
The US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, argued that fighting would likely increase as “maneuvering conditions improve”. Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month, he said Ukraine would “stand a very good chance of success” in such a counterattack.
Newsweek I have reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment via e-mail.
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