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Lithuania intel: Russia can wage war in Ukraine for at least two years at current intensity

Lithuanian intelligence reports that high oil prices and support from allies enable Russia to sustain its war in Ukraine for two more years, while Russia also receives matériel from Iran, North Korea, and microchips from China.
Russian soldier with looted items in Popasna, Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine. Spring 2022. Photo: RFE/RL
Lithuania intel: Russia can wage war in Ukraine for at least two years at current intensity

Lithuanian intelligence agencies reported on 7 March that high oil prices, sanctions evasion, and state investment are supplying Russia with sufficient resources to continue its current intensity of conflict in Ukraine for at least two more years, Reuters reports.

Lithuania, a Baltic nation bordering Russia and its ally Belarus, was once occupied by Russia but is now a member of NATO and the European Union. It is considered one of the potential primary targets for a possible future Russian invasion of NATO territory.

Last year, Lithuania’s intelligence chief, Elegijus Paulavičius, told reporters that Russia had sufficient resources to continue its war in Ukraine at its intensity of that period for two more years, while also noting that the duration of the conflict would depend on support for Russia’s military from states such as Iran and North Korea.

Now, the Lithuanian agencies’ annual threat assessment for the Baltic country says that in 2023, Russia reformed and strengthened its battle-weary army in Ukraine.

Baltic states to build defensive installations along borders with Russia, Belarus

In their report, embargoed for release on 7 March morning, two Lithuanian agencies – the counter-intelligence State Security Department and the Defence Intelligence and Security Service under the Ministry of National Defence – stated:

“Moscow is able to evaluate the lessons learned and improve its combat effectiveness.”

Russia evades sanctions, receives matériel from Iran and North Korea, uses Chinese chips

The agencies reported that Russian intelligence is spearheading efforts to circumvent the sanctions imposed on its defense industry following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Although only Iran and North Korea are openly supplying Russia with weapons and ammunition, China has emerged as its largest supplier of microchips, and the yuan has become the primary currency for Russia’s international transactions, according to Lithuania’s intelligence agencies.

Last year, Lithuanian intelligence chief Paulavičius asserted in his presentation of a national threat overview by Lithuania’s intelligence agencies, that hackers associated with the Russian and Chinese governments repeatedly attempted to infiltrate Lithuanian government computers in 2022.

Now, the agencies also noted that China ramped up its espionage efforts in Lithuania in 2023, in response to Lithuania’s decision to allow Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in 2021. The report also noted that cyber actors “affiliated with China” have been consistently scanning Lithuanian government institutions for vulnerabilities, aiming to infiltrate their networks and extract data.

LRT: Pro-Russian cyber group targets Lithuanian military system

Russia strengthens troops near Baltic and Finnish borders

Russia’s defense minister claimed on 5 March that the country had bolstered its military forces in the north and west in response to an alleged NATO buildup on its borders.

The Lithuanian report says Russia is progressing in expanding its military capabilities along its NATO border, including near Finland, which became an alliance member last year.

Russian intelligence-gathering sonar found on Lithuanian coast

The Lithuanian agencies noted that since Russia deployed nuclear warheads in Belarus in 2023, it has been consistently developing infrastructure for their use there.

Lithuania’s report also mentioned that Russian and Belarusian intelligence agencies had intensified their recruitment efforts targeting Lithuanians crossing the border, and Lithuania detained several of its citizens in 2023, accusing them of providing data to Belarusian intelligence for cash.

Like other Baltic countries, Lithuania is one of the staunchest supporters of Ukraine. The country consistently provides military aid, has pledged joint drone production with Ukraine, and has joined the Czech-led initiative to supply Ukraine with 800,000 artillery shells.

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