Russia could be planning major offensive for mid-December

Ukrainian soldier on the street of Avdiivka, Donetsk region, November 8, 2023
Ukrainian soldier on the street of Avdiivka, Donetsk region, November 8, 2023

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has a habit of claiming propaganda victories before announcing his presidential bids.

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International observer Ivan Yakovyna told NV Radio on Nov. 14 what Putin could demand from Russian forces before announcing his 2024 presidential campaign.

“Now the Russian government will try to solve all its problems in one go. So far, the Russians still have some resources, i.e., there are still quite a lot of them. While Ukraine is in a sad state due to the not very successful summer counteroffensive, and the West doesn’t know what to do and is in some confusion, the Russians will try to organize another big powerful offensive aimed at surrounding and defeating the Ukrainian troops to enter into negotiations on this positive wave, perhaps informal ones, followed by a ceasefire on terms favorable to Russia.

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I think they will now try to pull off such a deal. Russia will really need a winter break, because without mobilization, and as I said, it will only take place in late March or early April [after the elections], there will be few people at the front, and it will weaken. Losses due to cluster munitions are very high, equipment losses due to [Ukrainian first-person view] FPV drones are also high.

As for the equipment, by the way, they’ve already switched to using obsolete lorries that were used during the Second World War. In addition, Russia is really very afraid of attacks on its infrastructure facilities in Crimea, power plants, and especially thermal power plants. Why? Because in Russia, those who have lived in Russia and in Ukraine know that it’s much colder in Russia in winter than in Ukraine.

So, if something like this happens and the power and heat supply are cut off at that moment, can you imagine what it can lead to? They’ll put the war aside as it will be necessary to solve problems there, take the population somewhere or provide it with some [heating]. But for Russia, an attack on thermal power plants will be a much more serious problem than a similar attack on a Ukrainian power plant. This is actually how Ukraine can respond to Russia for its similar attacks last year.

Of course, Putin would like to avoid all this. The least he needs before the so-called elections is for half of the population to freeze in their apartments, he doesn’t want that. Of course, he would like to avoid any big losses right before the elections. It would be ideal for him to reach a ceasefire by March, especially concluded on Putin’s own terms. He would prefer to be re-elected in a calm environment, accumulate strength, ammunition, equipment, and only then continue [the war]. I think it would be a perfect solution for him.

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And another important point, the new date for Putin’s nomination to the presidency for the fifth term is approximately mid-December. The Direct Line [annual speech] will be held on Dec. 14, along with a press conference in the Kremlin. And a meeting of the Federation Council will take place in these dates, during which the election date will be officially announced. Putin will officially announce himself as a presidential candidate around mid-December. But before that, he still needs a big, significant, as the Russians say, victory.

It didn’t work out with Avdiivka in November. It was initially planned that Putin would [announce the] run for president on Nov. 4, but it didn’t work out. Why? Because Russia suffered a defeat in Avdiivka. But he didn’t abandon this idea, moreover, the victory has now become even more necessary, so I’m almost sure that the Russian army will try to accumulate a powerful military fist on one of the front lines and conduct another offensive in the coming month, taking into account all the previously committed ‘mistakes.’

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I think they will still try [to capture] Avdiivka. The victory in Avdiivka would be the most significant both in the media and military sense, psychological, symbolic, in any sense. And it would even be useful for logistics inside Donetsk because it’s now under constant threat from Ukrainian artillery deployed in Avdiivka. They would like to remove this threat.

And after such a resounding, symbolically important victory, the Ukrainians would be depressed and, as Putin hopes, would agree to a ceasefire on Russian terms. Moreover, if the Ukrainians said ‘no, we don’t want a ceasefire,’ Putin would offer some kind of carrot, e.g., let’s carry out an ‘all-for-all’ prisoner swap.’ It would probably be very difficult to refuse a ceasefire with such a condition. Although again, I don’t know all the political setups, but I think that would be a very powerful incentive for a ceasefire. It seems to me that Avdiivka is the most likely direction for another major offensive.

In addition to Avdiivka, there is Vuhledar, where the Russians also tried to organize an offensive, and there is also the Kupyansk direction. Kupyansk is important for the Russians in terms of logistics. They would probably want to attack there as well since the Russians have also stepped up there. Once again, I don’t know where they may advance, but I have almost no doubt that by mid-December, between now and mid-December, they’ll definitely try to stage some kind of offensive, I think in Avdiivka, but maybe somewhere else. In this regard, Ukrainian intelligence should certainly be very careful and monitor the possible deployment of Russian troops in one direction or another.

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In reality, Putin doesn’t really have a choice now. Entering the winter with a depleted army, with not enough soldiers to hold the defense, with possible Ukrainian strikes on Russian critical infrastructure, with increasing losses due to cluster munitions and FPV drones, with a very real possibility of the so-called ‘regrouping,’ or simply put, retreat from Kherson Oblast. It would be very dangerous for Putin to enter the winter with all this before the elections. He would very much like to get a ceasefire, at least for the winter.”

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