The Situation on the Ground in Ukraine
In the east, the Ukrainian military is at the doors of Svatove after a counteroffensive that liberated hundreds of square miles in just a few days. In the south, the Ukrainian military liberated Kherson City, the only provincial capital to fall to the hands of the Russians, and the western bank of the Dnipro River just a few weeks ago.
But the attacks have been failing to achieve anything significant, and the Russian military has been losing thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery pieces, drones, and other weapon systems in the process.
A Second Attack Against Kyiv?
We recently wrote on 19FortyFive how Russian President Vladimir Putin might be preparing his forces for a surprise winter offensive operation.
And now, the Ukrainians are warning of an incoming Russian offensive in the upcoming weeks, with Kyiv as a possible target.
“Russia may be setting conditions to conduct a new offensive against Ukraine—possibly against Kyiv—in winter 2023. Such an attack is extraordinarily unlikely to succeed. A Russian attack from Belarus is not imminent at this time,” the Institute for the Study of War assessed in one of its operational updates of the war.
There is already a force of Russian troops in Belarus, where it has joined the Belarussian Army in forming a joint formation. However, it seems highly unlikely that the Belarussian military will directly participate in any offensive operation inside Ukraine. The Belarussian people are largely opposed to the war, and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has been careful not to upset the political balance that keeps him in power.
On the Ukrainian side, Kyiv has telegraphed its intentions to continue with its counteroffensives in the east and south once the ground freezes and becomes favorable for mobile warfare.
Putin’s Objectives and Russian Strategy
Putin hasn’t changed his objectives in Ukraine.
He continues to seek maximalist goals and is gearing up for a war that can last months if not years.
Right now, Moscow is putting maximum pressure on Ukraine through the use of missiles.
Almost on a daily basis, the Russian military is launching ballistic and cruise missiles against Ukrainian cities and critical infrastructure.
As a result, most of the country is without electricity, internet, water, and heat.
With winter setting in, the Ukrainian population is suffering.
A potential winter offensive against Kyiv or other parts of Ukraine would likely be intended to coerce Ukraine into offering concessions or put pressure on Ukraine’s Western backers, which are experiencing war fatigue after almost ten months of war, to urge Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to negotiate.
At the core, however, the Russian military hasn’t overcome its deficiencies, and a potential winter attack is very likely to fail like all the previous Russian offensive attempts in Ukraine.
Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.