Espreso. Global

Russian military leadership lies about "active defense" of Avdiivka: ISW explains why

2 December, 2023 Saturday
14:50

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu continues to falsely characterize Russian offensive efforts in Ukraine as part of an “active defense” in an effort to temper expectations about the Russian military’s ability to achieve operationally significant objectives

This is stated in a report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). 

Shoigu stated on December 1 during a conference call with Russian military leadership that Russian forces are conducting an “active defense” in Ukraine and are capturing more advantageous positions in every operational direction.

According to experts, the Russian minister mentioned those brigades that are likely operating in areas where Russian troops are conducting offensive operations in eastern Ukraine, rather than defending against Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in Zaporizhzhia region.

Defense Minister Shoigu and Russian President Vladimir Putin have previously called Russian offensive operations to capture Avdiivka an "active defense” following the failure of the first Russian mechanized push to achieve significant tactical gains in early October 2023.

Russian forces launched two subsequent large-scale pushes to capture Avdiivka since early October 2023 and continue a high tempo of attritional infantry assaults around the settlement.

According to analysts, Russian officials’ characterization of these offensives as being part of an "active defense” are intentionally misleading. Ukrainian forces have never conducted offensive operations at scale in the Avdiivka area since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, and Avdiivka has been a famously static Ukrainian defensive position since 2014.

"Russian leadership has nevertheless continued to falsely frame operations around Avdiivka as an ”active defense” likely to recontextualize the lack of any major Russian progress around Avdivka despite over two months of large-scale Russian attacks there," the Institute explains.

They emphasized that the Russian military command would have to pursue an identifiable operational objective if it acknowledged the operations to capture Avdiivka as an offensive effort. The "active defense” framing, therefore, allows the Russian military leadership to declare success as long as Russian forces prevent Ukrainian forces from making any significant gains, an entirely achievable objective considering that Ukrainian forces are not conducting and never have conducted counteroffensive operations in the area.

The Russian command’s "defensive" framing of the offensive effort around Avdiivka as well as localized offensive operations elsewhere in eastern Ukraine suggests that it lacks confidence in the Russian military's ability to translate tactical gains into operationally significant advances.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is apparently concerned about decreasing Russian support for the war ahead of the 2024 presidential election, so he may have decided to downplay the scale of Russian operations to the Russian public.

"The increasing disconnect between heavy Russian losses in these offensive efforts and the Russian command’s framing of these operations may nevertheless fuel discontent in the wider Russian information space," the ISW report states.

  • On December 1, ISW reported that the invading Russian forces had advanced near Avdiivka over the past day. Meanwhile, the Defense Forces continue operations on the left bank of the Kherson region and are trying to advance south of Krynky.
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