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ISW: Ongoing Russian offensives in Ukraine’s east can result in gradual tactical advances

Russian offensive operations pressure Ukrainian defenses in eastern Ukraine, forcing possible limited tactical retreats to preserve personnel as marginal Russian gains accumulate amid continued heavy casualties, ISW says.
Ukrainian soldier with a drone
A Ukrainian soldier launches a quadrocopter drone used for reconaissance. Photo; General Staff
ISW: Ongoing Russian offensives in Ukraine’s east can result in gradual tactical advances

Localized Russian offensive operations are still placing pressure on Ukrainian forces in many places along the front in eastern Ukraine, and can result in gradual tactical Russian advances, according to the US-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi emphasized at a December 26 press conference the significance of holding Ukrainian territory but also stressed the prioritization of personnel preservation. He expressed concern that Russian forces can repeat “what happened in Bakhmut,” meaning high-casualty frontal attacks similar to those in Bakhmut to gain tactical advantages in Avdiivka within the next two to three months. This could potentially compel Ukrainian forces to withdraw temporarily to safeguard their personnel before retaking the settlement at a later time.

In May 2023, Russian forces seized Bakhmut after a prolonged series of incremental tactical advancements during the Wagner Group’s urban offensive campaign to capture the city. This operation resulted in significant Russian casualties, ultimately leading to the near obliteration of the Wagner Group due to an unsuccessful armed mutiny triggered by these losses.

Russian forces are engaging in attritional ground assaults in localized offensive operations across eastern Ukraine, although not on the same scale as the Wagner Group during the battle for Bakhmut. These Russian offensives aim to maintain pressure on Ukrainian defenders and yield only limited tactical gains.

“The accumulation of marginal Russian gains amid continued heavy fighting may produce tactical scenarios wherein the Ukrainian command may choose to withdraw forces from endangered positions of limited operational significance if it determines that the preservation of personnel is more expedient,” ISW says.

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