Their daily assessments of the progress of the Russian invasion make news headlines.

The change in the situation at the front can be followed in detail down to the streets on the interactive maps that they prepare every day.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) analyzes data from open sources - satellite images, footage from combat sites, government reports, reports from military bloggers and local authorities.

George Barros

, head of ISW's geospatial intelligence group, had a conversation with Tetyana Hajduk, creative director of Truman and host of the Ukrainian project KYIV NOT KIEV.

About the prospects of a new Russian offensive and a Ukrainian counteroffensive, problems in the Russian army and the evolution of its command, the situation in hot spots on the contact line, in particular in Bakhmut and Avdiivka, as well as whether political infighting in the Kremlin will become a basis for weakening Russian positions - further in the interview i

KYIV NOT KIEV is an English-language news blog about Ukraine, created by the T

ruman team

in 2020.

Its purpose is to improve Ukraine's communication with the international community.

The project is known for a series of interviews with ambassadors of foreign countries in Ukraine.

The KYIV NOT KIEV team recently launched



, which includes interviews with Ukrainian and foreign officials, businessmen, scientists and opinion leaders.

Tell us about the Institute team working on a daily update on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

How big is it?

What sources do you use to generate analytics?

How much time do you spend on daily assessment of changes in the situation at the front?

Our institute is a non-governmental, non-profit organization in the United States.

We do not collect any classified information and have no connection with American or British intelligence, as some people in Ukraine have claimed.

We are a group of scientists, researchers, and national security specialists who collect information from open sources.

We do not have special people on the ground in Ukraine, Russia or Belarus with whom we can communicate and collect special insider information.

When the full-scale invasion began on February 24, 2022, our Russia Research Portfolio team consisted of only 3 people.

We now have about 8-9 full-time employees, and we've created a separate geospatial intelligence team that takes responsibility for creating the maps you see in the news, as well as geospatial analysis and data collection through satellites and remote sensing.

On average, our working days last from 10 to 12 hours.

There is a certain connection between the Institute's statements and the public position of Russians who write about the war - military correspondents, people like Strelkov, Prigozhin and others.

But their statements may be special information operations to mislead the Ukrainian military.

How do you separate objective information from IPSO in open Russian sources?

Great question.

As part of our own methodology, we define source characteristics.

Whenever we gather information from any source, we know that it has some bias and some level of credibility.

We often do fact-checking, evaluating sources when it becomes clear whether their statements were false or true.

This approach is important to maintain and continually update so that when we collect new information from these sources, we know that it may be part of an information operation because this source is known to be less reliable than another.

We keep it in mind.

In our updates, you will often see phrases that ISW uses to minimize (potential - ed.) psychological informational impact, such as: "ISW cannot confirm this person's claims."

We also make edits and corrections when found to be

Photo: General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine / Facebook

In late 2021-early 2022, when Russian troops were massing on the borders with Ukraine and Western intelligence agencies were warning of the danger of a full-scale Russian invasion, ISW did not support the invasion forecast.

In one of your public speeches, you said that the Institute was wrong with the forecast, because the Russian military activity at that time did not look like a competent invasion plan.

Miscalculations in logistical support, problems with command, etc. were all too noticeable.

Has the Russian command evolved during a year of full-scale war?

Yes, they have evolved.

But thanks for bringing this up.

We were one of the last military organizations to change their forecast because the way the Russians were providing command and control didn't look like a competent invasion plan.

We said to ourselves: "We consider Valery Gerasimov (chief of the Russian General Staff) to be a competent person and a military professional. We do not think that Gerasimov will allow something like this. Any campaign organized in this way will go very badly."

As it actually happened during the battle for Kyiv.

But if you answer the question directly, then yes, the Russians are evolving and solving their problems.

During the first phase of the war, beginning with the Battle of Kiev, there was (as far as we can tell) no clear theater commander.

He wasn't there until a few months after the start of the war.

And now, every time there is a major change in command, it's a big deal: Lapin, Surovikin, the reassigned Gerasimov.

It showed that the Russians are really sticking to their team structure and learning from their mistakes, albeit slowly.

The Russians are now fixing the bugs in how they deploy units.

This is particularly clear from the current Russian offensive in the Luhansk region, where the Russians are deploying what appear to be doctrinally grounded units.

We know that the Russians are deploying elements of at least five different divisions there.

Previously, the Russian approach was to simply take a group of various separate unrelated battalions (tactical groups), send them together, and expect them to perform combat missions efficiently and effectively.

It was a failure.

So the fact that the Russians are now bringing forward full regiments with divisional structure and command in some places is an improvement for them.

The Russian campaign in the first year of the war went very badly;

they made many mistakes.

But the Russians will not be wrong forever.

They learn and improve.

The window of opportunity for Ukrainian forces to take advantage of Russian mistakes is closing.

Therefore, it is very important that we send as many weapons to Ukraine as possible, and as quickly as possible, to defeat the Russians while they are still vulnerable.

I have a question from Ukrainian military correspondent Andrii Tsaplienko.

What common features in the technology, tactics and strategy of the Russian assault operations on different areas of the front can be seen by analyzing satellite data?

One of the most obvious things we can see is the use of human wave tactics by the landing forces in the Bakhmut area.

With the help of satellites or even drones, it is easy to see that the Russian forces, in particular the forces of the Wagner group operating in the Bakhmut area, are essentially infantry.

They often operate without any armed support, resulting in horrendous casualties – the battlefield littered with their corpses.

It seems to me that the Russians are not even evacuating their dead and wounded.

They haven't done this for a long time, and we can see it in satellite images.

It is important.

I also remember various episodes from the Battle of Kyiv when we received clear MAXAR images of Russian units operating in the Kyiv, Gostomel and Irpen area.

I remember seeing satellite images of niche mechanized vehicles used by the Russian Airborne Forces.

What problems remain systemic for the Russian army, and how can Ukraine take advantage of its weaknesses?

The Russian Convention Army was defeated.

All relevant combat units fought in Ukraine and suffered various losses and regrouped to some extent.

This means that Putin does not have an effective virgin, clean reserve that he can use anywhere in Ukraine.

And this means that Russians are very vulnerable.

The formation of the armed forces remains (for them - ed.) a systemic problem.

If Putin wanted to win the war and conduct a high-quality military campaign, he would have conducted a general mobilization at the beginning of the war, fully equipped all Russian units and thrown them into battle.

Putin was supposed to make a decision (about mobilization - ed.) in May 2022.

It was quite clear that the Russians had exhausted their fighting strength around May.

Instead, he chose another measure: the creation of so-called "volunteer battalions" formed on the basis of various subjects of the Russian Federation.

But this attempt did not create effective forces.

Russia's various military-building efforts, such as attempts to use prisoners for the Wagner Group or the BARS backup system, have not yielded sufficient results.

Another systemic problem of the Russian army is problems with command and military culture.

Ukrainians learned to use the military practice of NATO, which consists in taking the initiative.

That is, a military commander, a battalion or brigade commander, understands his mission, has the support of his superior, and acts with a certain intention.

He does not need to wait for instructions from the center to make decisions in case of an unforeseen situation.

The Russian military does not do that.

They still have a Soviet military mentality: everything is subordinated to a centralized vertical of power, where you do not dare to make independent decisions.

This severely paralyzes the decision-making process and affects the Russian army.

The Ukrainians successfully eviscerated the Russian officer core.

We already have information about how in military academies students and cadets are promoted early, released early, sent to command units for which they are not ready.

This is all very well for Ukraine, because these people are not ready to take on such a level of responsibility and do not have the life experience necessary to command units.

It will take a whole generation to restore the Russian officer corps. 

On March 22, John Kirby said that in the next few weeks, Putin will try to launch a new offensive, possibly on many fronts.

Do you see the concentration of Russian troops in certain directions, sufficient for an offensive?

John Kirby's statement was interesting.

John Kirby has access to classified information that we cannot see because we only work with open sources.

So far, based on open sources, we have not seen any new concentration of Russian forces in any particular direction that would indicate a new Russian offensive.

There is one large unit that we have been looking for for a long time and we still don't know where it is.

Maybe this unit is stationed somewhere and John Kirby knows about it.

It is about the Second Motorized Rifle Division, which is part of the First Guards Tank Army of Russia.

The division suffered heavy losses in the first stage of the war, and was sent to Belarus for recovery and retraining.

Ukrainian military intelligence reported in January that the Second Motorized Rifle Division had left Belarus, returned to Russia, and may return to Luhansk.

But we did not see it on the battlefields in the Luhansk region.

If I knew where this division was located, it would help me better understand the current military plans (Russia - ed.).

One of the hottest spots on the map along the entire line of contact between the Russian and Ukrainian forces is now Bakhmut.

The Ukrainian military command decided to continue the defense and strengthen it.

President Zelenskyi visited Bakhmut yesterday.

I have a question from the British publication The Independent.

Why does Ukraine, despite high military losses, give everything it has to Bakhmut, symbolically and strategically?

Is this a wise move in an ongoing war?

I do not think that Ukraine will give everything it has to protect Bakhmut.

From open sources, we have not seen any signs that the Ukrainians have mobilized reserve forces on a significant scale to hold Bakhmut - this is an important factor.

I know that now the tactical situation in Bakhmut does not look too good, but the local commanders trust the Ukrainian tactical command and strategic leadership to make the right decision.

When the Ukrainians fought urban battles in Rubizhny and Lysychansk last year, the tactical situation also looked terrible.

But the Ukrainians successfully used these battles to severely bleed the Russian troops, to destroy their fighting capacity, and it was a success.

I do not undertake to predict that the Ukrainians will lose Bakhmut.

They can, but even if they lose it, it will be a tactical defeat of losing a city in favor of the operational success of destroying a huge amount of combat power.

We believe that the Russians are using Bakhmut to largely destroy the Wagner Group and put Prigozhin in his place, so to speak.

The Russians were also forced to drop an airborne assault on the battle at Bakhmut;

these are elite units that will not be able to participate in normal operations after the fall of Bakhmut, should that happen.

These forces will also not be in the best shape to defend against a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

So, I think that Ukraine's decision to keep Bakhmut is prudent for now, because, firstly, Ukrainian troops are not surrounded, and secondly, they destroyed a significant number of Russian forces,

What methodology do you use to determine the frontline change in the Bakhmut area?

We are looking at many photos and videos from the places of combat.

We are lucky that the Ukrainian brigades have Facebook pages and post pictures of the battles there every day.

So we determine the area based on these photos and videos.

The Russians also film everything and publish it on their Telegram channels or distribute it through military bloggers - we always note the sources in the endnotes of our materials.

Usually the footage of the Russians attacking Ukrainian positions is higher resolution than the satellite imagery, so we use that as well.

In our work, we also rely on the reports of the Ukrainian General Staff.

Thus, the basis of our methodology is the analysis of visual evidence, satellite images, footage from combat sites, government reports, reports of military bloggers and local authorities.

Russian troops are trying to surround Avdiivka.

Doesn't that remind you of the tactics they use in Bakhmut?

I haven't seen enough combat footage from Avdiivka yet, so I'd like to analyze it more.

Not yet.

The tactics used by the Russians in Avdiivka are more deliberate.

In the few shots of the battles from the Avdiivka and Donetsk airport areas that we have seen, it can be seen that the Russians use vehicles a little more actively, so the situation is different there.

It does not appear that the Russians mustered the same number of forces as at Bakhmut to try to achieve tactical victories solely through brute force and heavy casualties.

The situation in Avdiivka will be interesting.

The Russian brigade, which, according to reports, was supposed to go to the Vugledar district, instead went to Avdiivka.

This may indicate that Russia is trying to make Avdiyivka its priority after the defeat at Vugledar.

Photo: General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine / Facebook

Can you confirm the Oryx figures that Russia lost around 1845 tanks on the battlefield?

I can't confirm that right now because I haven't done the research like Oryx.

But Oryx's data sample is very broad, and the methodology they use is robust.

They look at confirmed images of battlefield casualties and build a database based on that.

Who now holds the initiative on the battlefield and has a better chance of dictating the course of the war this spring?

I think we are now in a phase where the initiative belongs to the Russians.

The Russians regained the initiative when they launched the current offensive on Luhansk in January.

In my opinion, the Ukrainians lost the initiative shortly after the Russians withdrew from Kherson in November.

After that, there were no large-scale changes or large maneuver battles in the controlled territory.

There were some tactical maneuvers around Kreminnaya and Svatovo, as well as in this area of ​​Luhansk region, but nothing serious, mostly positional confrontation.

I believe that currently the Russians have the initiative, because now they are the ones making the decisions on the battlefield, and the Ukrainians are forced to react to them.

According to our estimates, the Russian campaign in Luhansk will soon reach its climax, because it is early spring, and therefore the advance is hampered by mud.

So if the Russians take Bakhmut, it will almost certainly end the campaign quickly, as they won't be able to continue their offensive after that.

If the Russians capture Bakhmut, it will be the end of the Russian spring offensive, and then we will see how the Ukrainians will begin to seize the initiative for their spring counteroffensive.

Question from the Ukrainian publication "Liga".

The President of the Czech Republic, General Pavel, said that the Ukrainians will have only one attempt to launch a successful counteroffensive.

Do you agree with this?

I do not know in what context this statement was made.

We have always argued that the Ukrainians will not be able to win the war and repulse all the Russian troops as a result of a single counteroffensive.

Victory will require several consecutive and possibly simultaneous counterattacks.

I don't think I will agree with the fact that the ZSU has only one attempt.

I would agree with the urgency of the problem: as I said, the Ukrainians need to take advantage of Russia's current weakness before the Russians can fix their problems.

Building up the armed forces, manufacturing on the basis of the defense industry, circumventing sanctions with the help of Belarus, China and other partners, etc. - these efforts will pay off for the Russians in the long run.

So I agree with the fact that it is necessary to act urgently.

The window of opportunity is getting narrower.

Now Ukrainians have excellent chances,

Do you see the advance of the Ukrainian army in January, February or March 2023?

In which directions?

In general, now the Russians are moving forward.

We know that they got more room for maneuvers on the Kreminna-Svatove line.

However, this does not matter because the Russian gains are too small, the territory they have gained is not operationally significant, and they have lost too much combat power.

So for now this is Ukraine's success, because in the meantime Ukrainians are building up and improving their own armed forces.

They train in Germany, the US and the UK, and the Home Office is forming the Forward Guard.

The Ukrainians did not use their reserve units in the Battle of Bakhmut or elsewhere, and they are gradually beginning to receive Western armored vehicles and tanks, which will be useful to them in a counteroffensive.

What could be the next game changer to change the dynamics on the battlefield like HIMARS did?

Short answer: there is no single game-changing weapon.

There is no silver bullet.

I believe that the next big thing that the Ukrainians will need to improve their ability to wage war will be tanks: battle tanks and armored vehicles.

Ukrainians must be able to conduct a protected mechanized maneuver.

They will also need a lot of armored personnel carriers.

What factors can accelerate the return of Ukraine to all its territories?

I mean all the factors - the supply of new types of weapons, internal processes in Russia, such as the conflict between the Russian elites, etc.

Ukrainians need to resolutely beat Russian forces on the battlefield.

And for this, the fastest accelerator will be more significant international security assistance for Ukraine.

As for the conflict in the Kremlin, there are many romantic thoughts that there are some problems, that Putin will leave and the government will change.

Any of the security forces in the Kremlin that could theoretically replace Putin — I don't think Putin is in any danger, we're having an unrealistic conversation right now — they all come from the school of Russian historical revisionism, Russian imperialism.

All of them do not respect the sovereignty of the states of the former Soviet Union or the former Russian Empire.

They perceive these territories as Russian territory, and they will continue, I think, to wage war against Ukraine to achieve these goals.

There is no reason to realistically believe that the Kremlin's intentions regarding Ukraine will ever change.

The internal struggle between Prigozhin and Putin is a good thing, because it impairs their ability to effectively use national resources to achieve their military goals in Ukraine.

But I don't think it will be the key factor that will put an end to (the Russian invasion - ed.).

People making plans in the West should not think: "Oh, Prigozhin and Putin are fighting, they have problems with the formation of the armed forces, and mobilization is unpopular, so we don't need to support Ukraine."

This is a wrong conclusion.

The US avoids direct confrontation with Russia.

Russia, in its public rhetoric, is already at war with NATO and the West.

There was an incident in the Black Sea when a Russian fighter jet shot down an American drone.

Although this is not a sufficient reason for escalation, the event increased the number of contacts between the leadership of Russia and the United States.

Austin spoke with Shoigu, and Milli with Gerasimov.

Is maintaining dialogue a signal that both sides are trying to avoid direct confrontation?

I agree with this assessment.

Russia and the US are unlikely to go to war with each other.

Everyone likes to talk about this scenario because it's a way of talking about World War III, which of course means nuclear weapons.

And this is to the benefit of the Russian IPSO that the West and the USA cannot support Ukraine, otherwise they will cross the so-called "red lines", and then Putin will get angry and there will be retribution.

Putin threatens nuclear weapons all the time, but we know that Ukrainians are very brave.

They tested these "red lines" and demonstrated that the threats were empty.

And Putin, although he is not a completely rational actor, is not an apocalyptic thinker.

We do not think that because of this he will unleash the Third World War.

The theory of nuclear deterrence works.

Incidents in the Black Sea and elsewhere are not new.

The Russians have been perpetrating provocations against American military assets for decades.

The risk of confrontation is extremely low.

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