- Although new offensive will likely not be announced in President Putin’s address on 21 February, policies consolidating perceived gains in Donbas will be outlined
- In absence of new and more precision equipment, Russia will only succeed in minor battlefield gains this spring
- Russia will increasingly rely on aged, slow and inaccurate weapons to target Ukraine
- A member of President Vladimir Putin’s government announces plans to hold elections in September in newly seized areas of Ukraine. (15 February)
- A US-based think tank says Putin is unlikely to announce a major Ukrainian offensive or a new round of mobilisation during an upcoming national address on 21 February. (13 February)
- Russia launches over 100 missiles, its largest attack in 2023, targeting Ukrainian urban centres and infrastructure. (10 February)
Putin will use the upcoming national address to elaborate on measures aimed at integrating newly captured Ukrainian territories into Russia. Putin’s state address on 21 February comes three days before the one year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It has long been assessed that Putin will use the occasion to present a major new offensive, but he is instead likely to scale back any announcements. Although Moscow has increased its military activity throughout Ukraine over the past few weeks, the Russian military is reportedly unprepared to launch a new offensive due to shortages in equipment and manpower reserves.
Moscow will be unable to field a large enough force for a sustained, major offensive in the spring. The Russian military has reportedly lost a significant number of armoured vehicles, including tanks, and has likely exhausted its current supply of military reserves. Ukrainian air defences have forced Russia’s air force to operate almost exclusively over Russian-held territory. Ukraine’s use of US-supplied M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems missiles have created logistical and tactical problems. Moreover, a rift between private military company (PMC) Wagner Group and the military establishment has resulted in equipment shortfalls for the PMC as well.
Russia will increasingly rely on outdated and largely inaccurate missile systems to maintain a sustained tempo of attacks against Ukrainian cities. After President Zelenskiy’s recent visits to European capitals, Putin launched his largest wave of attacks yet against targets in Ukraine, which included a brief incursion into Moldovan airspace. Moscow has recently been combining conventional ground attack weapons with repurposed air defence and anti-ship missiles in these attacks. These are mostly unsuitable because they are often slow and inaccurate. The use of such weapons systems likely indicates that Moscow’s supply of modern, precision ground attack weapons has been seriously depleted.
Russia’s use of older, less accurate weapons likely reflects the inability of its military industrial complex to adequately produce equipment for its forces. This has the potential to create significant supply problems in the event of a major offensive. It also casts doubt on the much vaunted Russian military modernisation programme. Soviet-era guidance systems and inaccurate weapons mean that Russia will be largely unable to precisely target critical infrastructure, making incursions into international airspace more likely and attacks on civilians more prevalent. The resulting high casualty incidents will only increase international pressure against Putin and could lead Kyiv’s Western allies to become increasingly willing to provide more advanced equipment, such as aircraft, to Ukraine.