Russia Monitor is a review of the most important events related to Russian internal and external security, as well as its foreign policies.
Date: 23 January 2023 Author: Grzegorz Kuczyński
Situation at Front Line in Ukraine Reaches Deadlock
For two months, the frontline between occupying Russian troops and Ukrainian soldiers has not advanced much. Indeed, the city of Soledar fell to the Russians, but it is not going to have a strategic impact on the war itself, albeit being part of the effort to capture Bakhmut. The situation on the frontline in Ukraine is generally in a state of stalemate. No major advancements in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia while in Luhansk, fierce fighting is taking place along the Svatove-Kreminna line. Chances are that the situation will remain in a deadlock until a new major offensive is launched by either side, perhaps this spring.
Many believed a “winter warfare” would break out in January and February on frozen soil. A full-scale ground offensive is unlikely to take place before the spring thaw, somewhat around late March or April. Who benefits most? Many believed in the past that any deadlock is a nuisance for Ukraine that launched a full-stage offensive, recapturing Kharkiv, some territories in Donbas, and the western Kherson region. Russian troops were in defensive mode, seeking to prevent a disaster, by throwing mobilized troops to the front before their chaotic retreat to the left bank of the Dnieper River. Thousands of experienced Russian troops were dispatched to Luhansk, halting for many weeks a Ukrainian offensive from Kharkiv. After all, if Ukrainian forces had crossed the Svatove-Kreminna line, they would have advanced towards Severodonetsk and Lysychansk and gained an opportunity to go further inside the Luhansk region. Russian forces have sought to stage a counter-attack there, albeit in vain, as Ukrainian forces defend fiercely Kreminna and nearby settlements. Russia’s capture of Soledar had no major impact on the situation in Luhansk, but it is bad for Ukrainian forces around Bakhmut. This section, which is of particular importance for Wagner proxy forces, is unlikely to see any breakthrough anytime soon. Besides, even the retreat of the Ukrainians from Bakhmut, if necessary, will not significantly affect the strategic situation in Donbas. This would, of course, be a propaganda defeat for Kyiv, bigger than Soledar, but the threat to Kramatorsk and Sloviansk would not be greater, because the fierce defense of Bakhmut and Soledar gave Ukraine time to build a second line of defense a dozen kilometers farther west, and based largely on the Siversky Donets-Donbas waterway. No breakthrough on the front line is plausible either in Donbas and in the country’s south––let alone a possible attack from Belarus and directly from Russia. Both warring parties are bracing for a spring offensive. Western allies of Ukraine advised refraining from launching an offensive before Kyiv gets more weapons while its troops will get the necessary training. Russia, on the other hand, will still take at least a few more weeks to move tens of thousands of trained and armed troops from the fall mobilization to the front. The great offensive, perhaps even from three directions, which not only Kyiv has warned against, is still a matter of probably at least a month and a half. The question is whether Ukraine will not be the first to stage an offensive, to both recapture large swathes of territory and thwart a major spring offensive.
If content prepared by Warsaw Institute team is useful for you, please support our actions. Donations from private persons are necessary for the continuation of our mission.
All texts published by the Warsaw Institute Foundation may be disseminated on the condition that their origin is credited. Images may not be used without permission.