Is Putin Preparing a New Ukraine Attack?

Since early June, the Ukrainian military has launched a large-scale counteroffensive in the Donbas and southern Ukraine.

The Russian military has responded with a robust, in-depth defense that has slowed down the Western-equipped Ukrainian brigades. However, the Russian military is already strained by casualties and has had to weaken sectors of the battlefield to maintain its defense in the Donbas and southern Ukraine.

Now, in a desperate attempt to divert the attention of the Ukrainian military, Moscow is threatening to attack in the east with a big force.

Diversion From the East

Ukrainian military intelligence, or GUR, revealed that the Russian Ministry of Defense has moved as many as 100,000 troops to the east and is getting ready to attack.

“In the Lyman and Kupiansk direction, the enemy has concentrated a very powerful force – more than 100,000 personnel, more than 900 tanks, more than 555 artillery systems, 370 self-propelled guns. For understanding, the largest number of Soviet troops in Afghanistan was 120,000,”” Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the Eastern Grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said.

After suffering extremely heavy casualties on weapon systems over 18 months of war, the Russian military can likely field mostly antiquated main battle tanks and other weapon systems.

“Given that they announced a major strategic offensive early this spring, they want to show at least some success. That’s why they concentrated their maximum efforts in this direction to show that they are capable of some offensive actions after the failure of the Bakhmut operation, where we seized the initiative now,” the Ukrainian military official added.

Since the fall, there has been heavy fighting along the Kreminna-Svatove line of contact. Both militaries have been attacking and counterattacking in the area but with marginal gains on either side. The forested terrain prevents large-scale mechanized warfare, and both militaries have been forced to advance along certain axes.

A large-scale Russian offensive in the east would certainly strain the Ukrainian forces and might even stop the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Donbas and southern Ukraine.

It is worth noting that the Russian military launched a large-scale offensive in January but failed to achieve anything significant, losing more than 100,000 men and thousands of heavy weapon systems in the process.

The Allure of Kharkiv

At the onset of the Russian invasion, Kharkiv was one of the main targets of the Russian military. 

The second-largest city of Ukraine, Kharkiv, is only a few dozen miles from the western border of Russia. The Russian forces tried to capture the city but failed, and so a siege ensued. Despite intense pressure, the Ukrainian defenses held. 

Then, in the fall, the Ukrainian military launched a surprise lighting counteroffensive. In a matter of just a few days, the Ukrainian forces liberated hundreds of square miles of territory, including the area around Kharkiv, thus lifting the siege. Since then, Kharkiv has been close to the frontlines but outside the range of Russian indirect fires. 

Even if the Russian forces end up launching a large-scale offensive in the east, it is extremely unlikely that Kharkiv would be endangered. 

A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. He is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Strategy, Cybersecurity, and Intelligence at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

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