The Kremlin is trying to create the conditions for a strategic operation in Luhansk region over the next six months.
This is stated in reports of the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), reports Ukrinform.
As American analysts note, Kremlin insiders told the Bloomberg agency that Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking to seize the initiative on the battlefield and is preparing a new offensive that could begin as early as February or March. According to Russian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Putin believes that such an offensive will enable Russia to win the war in the long run despite recent setbacks.
“This is consistent with ISW’s current assessment and forecast that the Kremlin is preparing to launch a decisive strategic operation, most likely in Luhansk Oblast, within the next six months to restore the initiative. Previously, ISW indicated that such an operation could be either a major offensive in Luhansk regionor a Russian defense operation to defeat the Ukrainian counteroffensive,” the report says.
It is noted that the recent limited Russian attacks in the Zaporizhzhia region are most likely aimed at distracting Ukrainian forces from the Luhansk direction.
The ISW points to the redeployment of part of the Russian 2nd motorized rifle division from Belarus to the Luhansk region, which may also indicate the planning of a Russian offensive there, although they do not rule out its implementation in the Vugledar region of Donetsk region.
At the same time, ISW considers the probability of a Russian offensive from Belarusian territory to be the lowest.
“A new offensive is unlikely to come from Belarus to the north of Ukraine. As before, there are no signs that Russian troops are forming strike groups in Belarus. They mostly use Belarusian infrastructure and training potential for training rotations of their units,” the report states, adding that Russian media bloggers are increasingly calling the idea of a repeat attack on Kyiv with a Belarusian information operation.
As reported in a previous ISW report, the Kremlin is stepping up information operations inside Russia to present an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine as a forced move and prepare the population for a protracted war and future high casualties among Russians.