Illustration photo – Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on February 9, 2023.
Moscow – Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to announce major new steps regarding Russia's campaign in Ukraine during his upcoming speech to the Federal Assembly. This is reported by analysts of the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), according to which no announcements escalating the conflict, a significant change in policy or a new wave of mobilization can be expected.
Putin will deliver his annual state of the country address to lawmakers and other members of the ruling elite on February 21, three days before the anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The Russian president postponed the speech several times last year, probably in the hope that he could announce partial Russian victories, ISW writes. His speeches on the occasion of various anniversaries have been rather lackluster in recent months.
The date of the performance this year also falls on the first anniversary of Russia's recognition of the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic (DNR and LNR). Analysts therefore expect Putin to present the inclusion of the occupied Ukrainian territories and present them as a new success. The self-proclaimed formations in the east of Ukraine are not recognized by Kiev or the West.
Russia's military failure continues to make it impossible for Putin to come before the Russian public and share his successes with them. Since the capture of North Donetsk last July, the Russian army has not achieved any significant operational success. Ukrainian forces have since liberated nearly 18,000 square kilometers of territory.
Putin may have planned the anniversary speech in anticipation of Russian forces securing at least a tactical success in eastern Ukraine's Bakhmut area, analysts say. However, his soldiers have conquered an area of roughly 500 square kilometers in an intensive campaign since last July, while suffering extraordinary losses. Losses of soldiers and equipment are also high on the side of Ukraine, but its troops are still defending the city and thus will not allow Putin to declare its conquest with the approach of the anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine.
As for the new mobilization wave, most indicators and expert assessments indicate that Putin will not announce it next week. The Russian military has already deployed a significant portion of its existing military units to offensive operations in Ukraine, and the lack of reserves is likely to deter Putin from announcing a brand new large-scale offensive, ISW experts believe.