Ukraine Braces for Grisly Russian Offensive in the East
February 8, 2023, 3:49 PM
Ukraine is bracing for a grisly Russian offensive in the Donbas. Moscow has concentrated hundreds of thousands of troops in the country’s east, using brute-force tactics and human waves in a bid to chip away at the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ defenses.
Amid a recent surge in fighting, many military analysts believe the long-awaited Russian offensive is already underway and is expected to accelerate as the first anniversary of the invasion approaches.
“Something is brewing in the east,” said Jonatan Vseviov, secretary-general of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “More and more Russian soldiers are arriving on the front,” he said.
Ukrainian officials estimate that Russian forces inside the country have surpassed the 300,000 mark following a recent mobilization effort that began in September of last year. Military analysts believe the figure may be slightly lower, but even more conservative estimates of Russia’s presence in Ukraine are significantly higher than the invading force that Russian President Vladimir Putin used to invade the country last February—and this time, they are highly concentrated in eastern Ukraine.
“We expect in the next 10 days a new, huge invasion,” a Ukrainian military official, speaking on condition of anonymity to talk about intelligence matters, told Foreign Policy
. Over the weekend, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that he expects
a surge in Russian operations around the upcoming anniversary of the invasion on Feb. 24.
As Russian forces contended with steep losses in the first months of the war, the Kremlin announced a partial mobilization effort in the fall to bring in about 300,000 new troops. Despite the chaotic nature of the recruitment drive and the lack of training afforded to new recruits, the mobilization effort appears to have been a crude success by deploying enough troops to stall Ukraine’s advance—albeit with devastating losses for Russian forces. U.S. and Western officials now estimate that close to 200,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded in battle, the New York Times reported
The new recruits are significantly less well-equipped and trained than Moscow’s initial invading force dispatched over the borders in February of last year. In many instances, recruits have been used to perform human-wave attacks, a tactic popular with the Soviet Red Army, moving across open ground while coming under heavy fire from Ukrainian forces, said Dara Massicot, a Russian military analyst with the Rand Corporation.
Russia’s brute assaults, while not the most sophisticated, have taken a toll on the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which now has to contend with a much denser Russian presence. “A lot of those ingredients that were present that allowed successful Ukrainian counteroffensives up in Kharkiv, those ingredients are no longer present. The lines are thicker. They’ve mined them. They’ve dug in,” Massicot said.