Ukraine faces rising mechanized onslaughts from Russia - ISW

Soldier from 93rd separate mechanized brigade 'Kholodnyi Yar' of Armed Forces disguises an M109 self-propelled howitzer after firing at Russian troops, Donetsk Oblast, March 2024
Soldier from 93rd separate mechanized brigade 'Kholodnyi Yar' of Armed Forces disguises an M109 self-propelled howitzer after firing at Russian troops, Donetsk Oblast, March 2024

Russian forces have ramped up their mechanized assaults along various sections of the front line over the past fortnight, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported on April 3. 

Additionally, Russian troops are methodically enhancing their presence on the front lines, moving equipment and personnel in small units.

The report highlights a significant uptick in the frequency and magnitude of mechanized operations, indicating a broader escalation in the conflict. Notable recent developments include:

  • Ukrainian Armed Forces repelled a significant Russian attack in the Liman sector, publishing footage with confirmed geolocation, which shows how they damage or destroy several units of Russian armored vehicles east of Terny (west of Kreminna) on March 20

  • Ukrainian Armed Forces defeated Russian forces in a large-scale mechanized attack involving up to a battalion of equipment (at least 36 tanks and 12 infantry fighting vehicles) near the village of Tonenke, west of Avdiivka on March 30. Ukrainian serviceman said that during this Russian assault, Ukrainians destroyed 12 Russian tanks and eight infantry fighting vehicles. This was perhaps the largest mechanized assault of this scale since the beginning of the Russian offensive on Avdiivka in October 2023 (only single Russia attack near Terny on Jan. 20,  could be comparable, ISW notes)

  • Another geolocated footage shows Ukrainian forces repelling a mechanized Russian assault (platoon-sized attack, reinforced by tanks and IFVs) near Terny, publihed on April 3 yet undated. ISW believes this video to be recent and filmed later than the footage of the Russian assault near Terny on March 20.

ISW suggests that Russian army is trying to intensify mechanized assaults before the muddy ground makes it difficult to conduct mechanized warfare in the spring. Russian forces may also be stepping up such attacks to take advantage of Ukraine's lack of military equipment before the expected Western security assistance arrives.

Read also: The latest on Ukrainian and Russian military positions near Avdiivka and Ivanivske

It is also likely that Russian troops will intensify the overall pace of their offensive operations in Ukraine, ISW warns. Intensification of mechanized assaults by Russians occurring simultaneously with the intensification of missile and drone strikes on Ukrainian energy facilities, analysts remind. In particular, Russia launched a new campaign of attacks on Ukrainian hydroelectric power plants on March 22. It is possible that Russian troops are intensifying their strikes to pressure the Ukrainian command to deploy air defense systems away from the front line in order to more safely ivolve their combat aircraft in support of ground operations at the frontline. Ukrainian military observer Kostyantyn Mashovets said that Russians are gradually moving equipment and personnel to the front line in small groups, which makes it difficult for Ukrainian forces to control. This may indicate that Russian troops are preparing for larger-scale assault operations, ISW said.

Read also: Russian forces apply tactical adaptations in seizure of Avdiivka — ISW

On April 3, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said that, according to U.S. estimates, Russia has "almost completely restored" its military capabilities over the past few months. This suggests that Russia is preparing and may already have enough manpower and equipment to significantly intensify its current offensive operations or to initiate offensive actions in new areas of the front, ISW warned.

Meanwhile, Ukraine continues to say that the slow phased and delayed arrival of Western weapons systems for the Ukrainian Armed Forces will allow Russian troops to adapt and compensate operational advantages that these systems can provide to Ukrainian forces. Politico Europe, citing unnamed high-ranking Ukrainian military officials, stated that Western weapons are arriving too late and in insufficient quantities to have effective operational impact on the battlefield. In particular, Russians are probably already optimizing the Russian air defense network to counter the arrival of F-16 fighters, which may arrive in Ukraine in the summer of 2024.

Read also: ISW decodes Medvedev's statements and Russia's territorial claims, reports on Russian advancements

ISW reminds that Russians demonstrated ability to adapt to fighting in Ukraine, both because of the mass of their forces and because of their operational, tactical, and technological stability (albeit sometimes uneven). Russian ability to adapt, even if uneven or relatively slow, means that Ukrainian Armed Forces have a limited window of opportunity to maximize the use of Western weapon systems to achieve significant operational effect. At the same time, each individual type of weapon poses specific challenges to Russian military. It would likely be difficult for Russian army to adapt as easily or as quickly as before if Ukrainian Armed Forces could massively use several new Western systems at the same time. Timely arrival of new weapons systems from West would most likely allow Ukrainian Armed Forces to significantly deplete Russian forces and prevent even minor tactical advantages for Russia, as well as provide Ukraine with the capabilities necessary for operationally important counteroffensive operations, ISW concludes.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine