The Russian army is putting pressure on the front line in eastern Ukraine with its sights set on controlling all of the oblasts of Luhansk and Donetsk, the two regions of Donbass. In the Luhansk region, Russian forces are carrying out offensive actions along the Statove-Kreminna line and in the direction of Lyman. In the Donesk region, Russian attacks continue on and around Bakhmut, around the city of Donetsk and, further south, around Vuhledar. Finally, in the south-east of Ukraine, the Russian effort is focused on Zaporijjia. The Russian military command appears to have engaged elements of several conventional divisions in these operations.
“Russian forces have regained the initiative,” analyzes the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW). “The tempo of Russian operations has increased markedly in the Luhansk region. The engagement of significant elements of at least three major Russian divisions in offensive operations in the sector indicates that the Russian offensive has begun”. Attacks by Russian troops on Ukrainian defensive lines produced marginal advances, but these operations kept Ukrainian forces on the defensive by preventing them from preparing their spring counter-offensive.
A major Russian offensive before February 24?
Some are announcing a major Russian offensive before February 24, the first anniversary of the launch of the Russian invasion. Others are more cautious. In his weekly review, on the site of the strategic newsletter La Vigie, General Olivier Kempf has observed for several weeks a dispersion of Russian attacks across the entire front.
“By multiplying the assaults from one end of the front to the other, in a sufficiently significant way, we force the adversary to respond to each of the points attacked”, he notes. “The attack must be serious enough for the adversary to be obliged to make efforts, to bring reserves: in other words, to disperse”. In this large-scale war of attrition, the Russian forces would force their Ukrainian adversaries to “guard themselves on all points of the front and therefore to yield little by little, where the pressure is too strong”.
Resumption of strikes on energy sites
In this context, Russia carried out a “massive” attack on Friday, February 10, with dozens of missiles and explosive drones targeting several energy sites (power plants and transmission system facilities) in the Kharkiv and Zaporizhia regions. “In one hour, 17 strikes were registered in the city, the highest number since the start of the invasion,” Zaporizhia city council secretary Anatoly Kurtev said on Telegram, “part of the city is without electricity “. Finally, two Russian cruise missiles launched from the Black Sea entered Moldovan and Romanian airspace, according to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The last major Russian strikes dated back to the end of January, the day after the Westerners decided to deliver heavy tanks to the Ukrainian army.
The Ukrainian armies do not remain unanswered. The Washington Post revealed that they used targeting coordinates, provided or confirmed by the United States and its allies, for the vast majority of precision strikes carried out using the multiple launch rocket systems (Himars) provided by Washington. According to a Ukrainian official quoted by the American daily, the targeting goes through an American base in Europe.