Publications

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 15

July 15, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian forces are likely emerging from their operational pause as of July 15. Russian forces carried out a series of limited ground assaults northwest of Slovyansk, southeast of Siversk, along the T1302 Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway, southeast of Bakhmut, and southwest of Donetsk City. These assaults may indicate that Russian forces are attempting to resume their offensive operations in Donbas. The assaults are still small-scale and were largely unsuccessful. If the operational pause is truly over, the Russians will likely continue and expand such assaults in the coming 72 hours. The Russians might instead alternate briefer pauses with strengthening attacks over a number of days before moving into a full-scale offensive operation. A 10-day-long operational pause is insufficient to fully regenerate Russian forces for large-scale offensive operations. The Russian military seems to feel continuous pressure to resume and continue offensive operations before it can reasonably have rebuilt sufficient combat power to achieve decisive effects at a reasonable cost to itself, however. The resuming Russian offensive may therefore fluctuate or even stall for some time.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 14

July 14, 2022 - Press ISW

Russia’s operational pause largely continued, with limited Russian ground assaults along the Slovyansk-Siversk-Bakhmut salient. Russian forces continued heavy shelling, missile attacks, and airstrikes all along the front line. The Russians will likely launch a larger-scale and more determined offensive along the Slovyansk-Siversk-Bakhmut line soon, but there are no indications yet of how soon that attack will begin or exactly where it will focus.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 13

July 13, 2022 - Press ISW

The Kremlin likely ordered Russian “federal subjects” (regions) to form volunteer battalions to participate in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, instead of declaring partial or full mobilization in Russia. Russian war correspondent and milblogger Maksim Fomin stated that Russia has begun a “volunteer mobilization,” where every region must generate at least one volunteer battalion. The term “volunteer mobilization” likely implies that the Kremlin ordered the 85 “federal subjects” (regions, including occupied Sevastopol and Crimea) to recruit and financially incentivize volunteers to form new battalions, rather than referring to literal mobilization relying on conscription or the compulsory activation of all reservists in Russia. Russian outlets reported that regional officials recruit men up to 50 years old (or 60 for separate military specialties) for six-month contracts and offer salaries averaging 220,000 to 350,000 rubles per month (approximately $3,750 to $6,000). Separate regions offer an immediate enlistment bonus that averages 200,000 rubles (approximately $3,400) issued from the region‘s budget and social benefits for the servicemen and their families. Russian media has already confirmed the creation or deployment of volunteer battalions in Kursk, Primorskyi Krai, Republic of Bashkortostan, Chuvashia Republic, Chechnya, Republic of Tatarstan, Moscow City, Perm, Nizhny Novgorod, and Orenburg Oblasts in late June and early July. Tyumen Oblast officials announced the formation of volunteer units (not specifically a battalion) on July 7.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 12

July 12, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian forces remain in a theater-wide operational pause in Ukraine. Russian forces continue to regroup, rest, refit, and reconstitute; bombard critical areas to set conditions for future ground offensives; and conduct limited probing attacks. The Russian Ministry of Defense did not claim any new territorial control on July 12. ISW has previously noted that an operational pause does not mean a cessation of attacks. Current Russian offensive actions are likely meant to prepare for future offensives, the timing of which remains unclear.

Russian Offensive Campaign Update, July 11

July 11, 2022 - Press ISW

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is likely continuing to grant Russian forces access to Belarusian airspace to demonstrate at least nominal support to Russian President Vladimir Putin without risking direct military involvement of Belarusian Armed Forces in operations in Ukraine. Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Department of the Ukrainian General Staff Oleksiy Gromov previously reported on July 7 that the Belarusian government transferred use of the Pribytki airfield in Gomel Oblast to Russia. Independent Belarusian monitoring organization The Hajun Project similarly reported on July 11 that a Russian Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft flew into Belarusian airspace for the first time since April 4. The Hajun Project noted that the Belarusian government introduced new airspace restrictions along the border with Ukraine where the AWACS aircraft patrolled between July 10 and 11. Taken together, these data points likely indicate that Lukashenko is attempting to provide support to Putin's war in Ukraine short of direct Belarusian military intervention in an effort to respond to the pressure Putin is likely putting on him. As ISW has previously assessed, the likelihood of direct Belarusian involvement in the war in Ukraine remains low due to the effect that might have on the stability and even survival of Lukashenko’s regime.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 10

July 10, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian forces are in the midst of a theater-wide operational pause in Ukraine. This operational pause has been largely characterized by Russian troops regrouping to rest, refit, and reconstitute; heavy artillery fire in critical areas to set conditions for future ground advances; and limited probing attacks to identify Ukrainian weakness and structure appropriate tactical responses. As ISW has previously noted, an operational pause does not mean a complete cessation of hostilities, rather that ongoing hostilities are more preparative in nature.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 9

July 9, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian-backed occupation authorities in Kharkiv Oblast stated that Kharkiv Oblast is an “inalienable part of Russian land,” indicating that the Kremlin likely intends to annex part or all of Kharkiv Oblast. The Russian occupation government in Kharkiv Oblast unveiled a new flag for the occupation regime in Kharkiv Oblast containing the Russian imperial double-headed eagle and symbols from the 18th century Kharkiv coat of arms. The Russian occupation government stated that the imagery in the flag is a “symbol of the historical roots of Kharkiv Oblast as an inalienable part of Russian land,” indicating that the Kremlin seeks to annex portions of Kharkiv Oblast to Russia and likely seeks to capture all of Kharkiv Oblast if it can. The Kharkiv Oblast occupation government’s speed in establishing a civilian administration on July 6 and introducing martial law in occupied Kharkiv Oblast on July 8 further indicates that the Kremlin is aggressively pursuing the legitimization and consolidation of the Kharkiv Oblast occupation administration’s power to support this broader territorial aim. The Kharkiv Oblast occupation government’s explicit use of Imperial Russian imagery and rhetoric pointing clearly at annexation, rather than using imagery and rhetoric supporting the establishment of a “people’s republic,” reinforces ISW’s prior assessment that the Kremlin has broader territorial aims than capturing Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts or even holding southern Ukraine.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 8

July 8, 2022 - Press ISW

Luhansk Oblast Administration Head Serhiy Haidai stated that Russian forces are not conducting an operational pause as of July 8 and are continuing to shell settlements and deploy additional tank units to Donbas. Haidai’s statement likely reflects confusion about the meaning of the expression “operational pause” and how such a “pause” actually manifests on the ground in a war. US military doctrine considers the role of operational pauses in warfighting and campaigning in some detail. It notes that “Normally, operational pauses are planned to regenerate combat power or augment sustainment and forces for the next phase.” It observes that “The primary drawback to operational pauses is the risk of forfeiting strategic or operational initiative.” It therefore recommends that “If pauses are necessary, the [commander] can alternate pauses among components to ensure continuous pressure on the enemy or adversary through offensive actions by some components while other components pause.” Soviet military theory regarded operational pauses in a similar fashion—sometimes necessary, but always dangerous.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 7

July 7, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian Defense Ministry Spokesperson Igor Konashenkov announced on July 7 that Russian forces in Ukraine are pausing to rest and regain their combat capabilities, confirming ISW’s assessment that Russian forces have initiated an operational pause. Konashenkov did not specify the intended length of Russian forces’ operational pause. As ISW previously assessed, Russian forces have not ceased active hostilities during this operational pause and are unlikely to do so. Russian forces still conducted limited ground offensives and air, artillery, and missile strikes across all axes on July 7. Russian forces will likely continue to confine themselves to small-scale offensive actions as they rebuild forces and set conditions for a more significant offensive in the coming weeks or months.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 6

July 6, 2022 - Press ISW

There were no claimed or assessed Russian territorial gains in Ukraine on July 6 for the first time in 133 days of war, supporting ISW’s assessment that Russian forces have largely initiated an operational pause. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed territorial gains every day from the start of the war but has not claimed any new territory or ground force movements since completing the encirclement of Lysychansk on July 3. However, Russian forces still conducted limited and unsuccessful ground assaults across all axes on July 6. Such attempts are consistent with a Russian operational pause, which does not imply or require the complete cessation of active hostilities. It means, in this case, that Russian forces will likely confine themselves to relatively small-scale offensive actions as they attempt to set conditions for more significant offensive operations and rebuild the combat power needed to attempt those more ambitious undertakings.

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