Russia plans rapid offensive before Leopard tanks reach battlefield – ISW

Russia plans to launch a renewed offensive against Ukrainian forces in just a week, before Western main battle tanks arrive in the war-torn country, according to an operational update.

Several Ukrainian officials have indicated that Moscow is preparing to launch a “large-scale decisive offensive in eastern Ukraine” in mid-to-late February, the think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said on Monday.

On Sunday, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told a media conference that because of the “symbolism” of such a move, Ukraine expects a new major offensive in the coming weeks.

A new push by Russian forces is likely to occur before February 24, he said Ukraine Pravda. This will mark the one year anniversary since the start of the full-scale invasion.

Ukrainian soldiers
Ukrainian soldiers sit on an armored personnel carrier en route to the front lines in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, September 21, 2022. Ukrainian officials have predicted a Russian offensive around February 15, before western tanks can reach Ukraine’s front lines.
Anatolii Stepanov/AFP via Getty Images

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of East Luhansk region, told Telegram on Monday that an “enemy offensive can begin anytime after February 15.” Later on Monday, he described intensified attacks in Luhansk, adding: “This is not a large-scale offensive, but a preparation for it.”

An anonymous Ukrainian advisor described a timeframe similar to that financial times and Nataliya Humenyuk, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Southern Operations Command, said Moscow is likely to focus its efforts on Ukraine’s east rather than the south.

A Russian military blogger linked to the Mercenary Wagner group said Russian forces had limited time to launch a full-scale offensive before it became too difficult to carry out, the ISW said.

Other “milblogger” comments also seem to indicate that Russian military commanders “appear to be in a rush to launch the decisive offensive,” the ISW added.

This is likely to precede the arrival of new Western military aid, including Leopard 2 main battle tanks, and the “muddy spring season” from around April that “hampered Russian mechanized maneuvers in the spring of 2022,” the think tank argued.

On January 25, Chancellor Olaf Scholz confirmed that Berlin would send 14 Leopard 2A6 tanks to Ukraine and allow third countries to supply Kyiv with the main battle tanks as well.

President Joe Biden announced the US would send 31 M1 Abrams tanks, although it is expected to take months for them to arrive on the battlefield and for Ukrainian crews to complete the necessary training.

On Monday, the first Leopard 2 tank donated by Canada arrived in Poland before being transported to Ukraine.

In a speech on January 26, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was “very happy” and “grateful” for the deliveries of the sophisticated tanks, which represent a significant improvement over the Soviet-era main battle tanks used by the Ukrainian armed forces.

“I want to thank Germany, Britain and the United States for making this decision,” he said Sky news.

“But frankly,” he added, “the number of tanks and the delivery time to Ukraine are crucial.” Russia plans rapid offensive before Leopard tanks reach battlefield – ISW

Rick Schindler

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