Russian troops “increasingly separated” from reality in Ukraine: ISW

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According to a leading think tank, Russian forces continue to prioritize “pointless” offensive operations in eastern Ukraine rather than focus on defending against Ukraine’s advancing counter-offensive in the eastern region of Kharkov.

Institute for the Study of War said Russian forces are attacking Bakhmut and villages near Donetsk City that are “of emotional significance to pro-war residents of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), but of little other importance,” in a review on Saturday. .

They appear to be directing some of the very limited reserves available in Ukraine to these efforts rather than to the fragile Russian defenses hastily erected along the Oskil River in eastern Kharkov Oblast, ISW added.

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Russia suffered a major setback in its war against Ukraine last week when a Ukrainian counter-offensive forced its forces back from much of the country’s northeast.

The map from the Institute for the Study of War and AEI’s Critical Threats Project’s map shows the assessed control of terrain in Ukraine and key Russian maneuver axes as of September 17, 2022.
Institute for the Study of War and AEI’s Critical Threats Project

The ISW said the Russians cannot hope to make enough profits around Bakhmut or Donetsk City to derail Ukraine’s counter-offensive operations, but appear to be “continuing an almost robotic effort to gain ground in the increasingly detached Donetsk Oblast.” to stand by the general reality of the theatre.”

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The failure of Russian forces to rush large-scale reinforcements to the eastern regions of Kharkov and Luhansk makes most of the Russian-occupied northeast of the country “highly vulnerable” to continued counter-offensive action by Ukrainian forces, the ISW said.

It comes as British defense officials said Russia is likely to mount a “stubborn defense” of Luhansk Oblast, but may not have the resources to handle a further attack by Ukrainian forces.

The British Ministry of Defense said on Saturday that Russian forces had set up a defense line between the Oskil River and the town of Svatove along the border with Luhansk.

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“Russia probably finds it important to maintain control of this zone, as it is passed through one of the few main supply routes that Russia still controls from the Belgorod region of Russia,” the ministry said in its assessment.

That line runs along the border of Luhansk Oblast, officials noted, and “any substantial loss of territory” in Luhansk will “unequivocally undermine Russia’s strategy.”

Soldiers pose outside Izyum, Eastern Ukraine
Soldiers pose outside Izyum, eastern Ukraine, on September 17, 2022, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Juan Barreto/TNZT via Getty Images

“Russia will probably try stubbornly to defend this area, but it is unclear whether Russian front troops have sufficient reserves or morale to withstand another joint Ukrainian attack.”

In Sunday’s intelligence update, British defense officials said Russia has been focusing more on civilian infrastructure in the past seven days “even where it is unlikely to see an immediate military effect”.

“While facing frontline setbacks, Russia has likely expanded the sites it is prepared to attack in an effort to directly undermine the morale of the Ukrainian people and government,” officials said.

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