Illustrative photo – Russian T-90 tanks in an unspecified area in Ukraine on January 23, 2023.
Kyiv/Washington – Russian forces have regained the initiative in Ukraine and launched another major offensive in Luhansk region, the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its current report on the state of fighting in Ukraine. The pace of Russian operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line in the western Luhansk region has significantly increased over the past week, and Russian sources, according to ISW, are reporting that Russian troops are attacking Ukrainian defense lines and advancing on the borders of Kharkiv and Luhansk regions, especially northwest of Svatove near Kupjanska and west of Kreminna.
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< p>Geolocation footage of the fighting confirms Russian territorial gains in the Dvorične area northwest of the town of Svatove. In addition, the Russian military command appears to have fully deployed parts of several conventional divisions to decisive offensive operations in the area, as ISW has reported in previous reports.
The deployment of substantial parts of at least three major Russian divisions to operations in this sector suggests that the Russian offensive has begun, although Ukrainian forces have so far prevented Russian forces from making significant gains. The Russian offensive has probably not reached full speed yet. Moreover, its success is not guaranteed or predetermined, adds ISW.
While Russian forces in the Luhansk region have now taken the initiative in the sense that they are determining the terms of the battle, the full deployment of these forces could lead to an eventual escalation of the fighting without the Russian forces achieving their objective of occupying all of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Such a situation would likely give the Ukrainian side something to use for its own counter-offensive.
Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin's private mercenary army, known as the Wagner Group, announced today that it has stopped recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine. With reference to the founder of the group, Reuters reported about it. This mercenary unit spearheaded the months-long assault on the town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region and is playing an increasingly important role in Russia's war in Ukraine.
“The recruitment of prisoners by Wagner's private military company has been completely stopped,” Prigozhin said. on social networks. “We fulfill all our obligations to those who work for us now,” he added.
Wagner's group began recruiting prisoners in Russia's sprawling prison system in the summer of 2022, with Prigozhin, a restaurant entrepreneur who served nine years in prison in the Soviet Union, offering convicts a pardon if they survived six months in Ukraine.
< p>The group did not provide information on how many prisoners joined its ranks, but data from Russia's prison service released in November showed that the number of prisoners in the country fell by more than 20,000 from August to November, the biggest drop in more than a decade. In December, Reuters, citing US intelligence, reported that Wagner's group had 40,000 recruited prisoners deployed in Ukraine, making up the vast majority of the group's forces in the country.
Russian officials continue to propose measures to prepare the Russian military industry for a protracted war in Ukraine, and at the same time probably create additional conditions for circumventing sanctions.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said on Wednesday that the Russian government will subsidize investment projects for the modernization of enterprises operating in the interests of the Russian military and allocate significant funds for the production of new military equipment. Mishustin also said the Russian government would extend benefits to Russian businessmen who support the Russian military, including extending the repayment period for leased federal property.
On February 8, the UK announced a new list of sanctioned entities targeting Russia's military industry. ISW previously reported that 82 percent of Iranian-made drones shot down in Ukraine had chips, semiconductors and other components from the United States, suggesting that Russia and Iran may be using the sanctions loophole to import Western-sourced weapons components into Russia through intermediary entities.
The Kremlin's effort to prepare the Russian military industry for a protracted war in Ukraine depends in part on the ability of the Russian military industry to have constant access to several secure supply chains of key foreign components that it cannot produce itself.