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Russia setting conditions for renewed offensive from Belarus – ISW

Moscow has been setting conditions for a new most dangerous course of action — a renewed invasion of northern Ukraine possibly aimed at Kyiv — since at least October 2022, the Institute for Study of War writes in its latest report.

This could be a Russian information operation or could reflect Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actual intentions, ISW assesses :

Currently available indicators are ambivalent—some verified evidence of a Russian buildup in Belarus makes more sense as part of preparations for a renewed offensive than as part of ongoing exercises and training practices, but there remains no evidence that Moscow is actively preparing a strike force in Belarus,” ISW writes.

ISW continues to assess that a renewed large-scale Russian invasion from Belarus is unlikely this winter, but it is a possibility that must be taken seriously.

It notes that concern about a new invasion from Belarus is not merely a Ukrainian info-op aimed at getting more weapons from the west, as some observers suggested.

Prominent Russian pro-war milbloggers are amplifying the possibility of an invasion from Belarus over the winter-spring period. Putin’s upcoming meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in St. Petersburg on December 26-27 will advance the Russian information operation around the possible Belarusian front even if it does not directly support preparations for it.

Among the indicators that a renewed invasion might be brewing is the possible deployment of field hospitals to Belarus (likely, two) and winter camouflage for tanks. However, these could also be an information operation.

ISW states that an offensive from Belarus remains a worst-case scenario and is unlikely to materialize without Russian strike groups, which are currently not observed.

The Russian military has been much more clearly setting conditions for an offensive in northwestern Luhansk Oblast, however. This could be preparations for a diversionary attack to divert Ukrainian forces from defending in Donbas or in conjunction with an offensive in Luhansk or, less plausibly, elsewhere.

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