Along with already present cyber, psychological operations and attempts to accuse Ukraine of aggression against Russia along with Putin’s Big Lie narrative, the most likely military scenarios are:
- a significant escalation of the situation in the east of Ukraine with the possible use of the Russian armed forces, including aviation, missile weapons, and the Navy;
- crossing the contact line in Donbas and attempting to seize parts of the land and settlements around the occupied territories;
- missile strikes on military targets and infrastructure in various locations across Ukraine, including Kyiv, with the goal of psychological pressure.
Ukraine Center for Defense Strategies (CDS) experts Andriy Zagorodniuk, Alina Frolova, Oleksiy Pavliuchyk, and Viktor Kevliuk published their analytics on 22 February, following Putin’s recognition of his “DNR” and “LNR” satrapies as independent states and regular Russian units entering their territories. Ukrainska Pravda published the Ukrainian version of their lengthy analysis while the full English translation was published by the Kyiv Independent. Here is its summary.[/editorial]
СDS experts highlight that Putin’s public position regarding Ukraine morphed from seeking a favorable agreement with Ukraine as a foreign country in 2020 to chauvinist claims in 2022 that Ukraine is a historical error that does not deserve sovereignty.
- Read also: Russian propaganda now shows Ukraine as “enslaved brother,” invasion as “just reclamation”
That is why his initial 2022 scenario could indeed have been to conduct a full-scale military operation against Ukraine. Putin was forced to postpone the scenario of a large-scale invasion, at least for a while because of:
- Ukraine’s readiness to resist and improved capabilities of the Armed Forces (including recent assistance) and the readiness of defense forces;
- “severe sanctions;”
- active political and diplomatic pressure;
- the disclosure of intelligence that exposed Russia’s plans.
The experts also write that Putin usually acts by the method of tests. Because the “test” accumulation of forces and means of the Russian Federation on the border with Ukraine in the spring of 2021 did not bring a negative result for the Russian Federation, the Kremlin decided to take advantage of the opportunities and created the current crisis of winter 2021-2022.
The scale of the crisis and the possibility of open aggression indicate that at this time Russia has decided to finally achieve its goal.
This goes in line with Putin’s general narrative outlined in his speech – to present Ukraine as a weak state, equal to the occupied areas of the “L/DNR” under Russian control.
As of the evening of 23 February, Ukraine has already started all of these steps and introduced a State of Emergency. It is ready to introduce martial law in case of further escalation.
- Kyiv defense experts: Russian proxies may attempt to expand occupied territory (the Center for Defense Strategies’ 20 February analysis)
- Russia says its proxies have right to two entire Ukrainian oblasts, withdraws from Minsk agreements
- IT specialists launch automated monitoring of Russian troops on Ukrainian border
- Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine and the West is entering the next phase: The crisis
- Russian troops massed around Ukraine now ready for ‘various offensive scenarios’: digital sleuths