In this way, the Russians are trying to seize and hold the initiative until the presidential elections in Russia in March 2024.

This was reported by the Institute for the Study of War

- Russian forces are currently conducting offensive actions along most of the front line in Ukraine, including along the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border, near Bakhmut, and toward Avdiivka, as Ukrainian military officials have repeatedly noted, and Russian forces are conducting continuous ground attacks in western Zaporizhia Oblast.

The current pace of fighting along the entire front line in Ukraine is generally consistent with ISW's ongoing assessment that Russian forces have been attempting to regain the initiative in the theater of operations since at least mid-November 2023.

Recent official statements from the Ukrainian military also indicate that Russian forces have managed to seize the initiative along the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border, near Bakhmut, and along the Avdiivka-Donetsk axis, while Ukrainian forces maintain the initiative in key areas of southern Ukraine, as evidenced by sustained Ukrainian counterattacks in western Zaporizhia Oblast and a prolonged, larger-than-usual Ukrainian presence on the eastern bank of Kherson Oblast.

It should be noted that Russian forces made a concerted effort to regain the initiative and launch offensive operations during the most difficult weather conditions for mechanized offensive operations in the fall, confirming ISW's long-standing assessment that bad weather conditions may slowly but not cease hostilities on the front line.

Russian forces likely decided to try to regain the initiative during such bad weather because Ukrainian forces largely deprived Russian forces of the opportunity to regain the initiative and conduct an offensive in the summer, when the weather was much more favorable for military operations. Russia's concerns about the upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive even before the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive in early June 2023 kept Russian forces in southern Ukraine on the defensive in the first half of 2023, depriving them of the ability to pursue offensive capabilities in the south during this period.

Over the past few weeks, Russian forces have continued offensive operations along the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border, despite snow, frost, and mud in eastern Ukraine, and conducted continuous ground attacks in western Zaporizhia Oblast, despite slushy weather and high winds across much of the territory. south.

Large swathes of the front line, particularly in northeastern and eastern Ukraine, are now entering a period of severe frost as temperatures drop and muddy ground freezes, making mechanized operations easier for both Russian and Ukrainian forces. The fact that Russian forces sought to seize the initiative and launch offensive operations in early to mid-November 2023, during the most difficult weather conditions of the year, rather than waiting for severe frost, suggests that Russian forces are under pressure to fully seize and maintain the initiative in the first months of 2024 until the upcoming Russian presidential elections in March 2024. Russian commanders may also have sought to bring Ukrainian counteroffensive to a climax or ensure that Ukrainian forces were unable to resume it early in winter. However, the timing of events suggests that Kyiv decided to significantly reduce its counteroffensive operations of its own volition even before the start of Russia's offensive operations.

However, it remains unclear whether current Russian offensive operations will create the conditions for Russian forces to make significant gains in the near future. Severe weather conditions likely slowed the pace of Russian advances along much of the front line, increased Russian casualties, and further undermined Russian soldiers' morale. The rate of Russian losses along the entire front line in Ukraine appears to be close to the rate of formation of Russian forces, as previously observed by ISW, likely indicating that Russian forces are not accumulating unused reserves to prepare for larger-scale winter operations.

Earlier, political expert and journalist Vitaly Portnikov explained why Ukraine cannot transfer the war to the territory of the Russian Federation.

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