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ISW speculates on Russia's intentions behind latest series of missile strikes

Wednesday, 10 May 2023, 04:40
ISW speculates on Russia's intentions behind latest series of missile strikes

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) have pointed out that Russia is attempting to emphasise that it is deterring a future Ukrainian counter-offensive with its latest series of missile strikes. However, ISW believes this is not a significant factor in influencing the actions of Ukraine’s Defence Forces.

Source: ISW

Details: Russian troops carried out another large-scale wave of missile attacks on Ukraine on the night of 8-9 May. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on 9 May that Ukrainian air defences had shot down all 8 Kalibr cruise missiles and 15 of the 17 Kh-101/Kh-555 missiles launched by Russian forces.


Military analysts conclude: "Russian forces may be attempting to conduct an almost daily series of missile strikes in order to portray themselves as constraining potential upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive operations, although the diminished effectiveness of the strikes is likely not significantly constraining Ukrainian actions."

The report notes that Russian President Vladimir Putin gave up the idea of using his Victory Day address to make any significant rhetorical changes and repeated existing narratives, preparing for a protracted war and presenting Russia as successfully confronting the entire West.

In his annual 9 May address, Putin said that "a real war has been unleashed against Russia" and that Russia has repelled international terrorism and would continue to "defend" the people of Donbas.

Putin also attempted to use the Victory Day celebrations to rally his partners in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), many seeking to reduce their dependence on the Kremlin from February 2022.

Nikol Pashinyan, Prime Minister of Armenia, Alexander Lukashenko, self-proclaimed President of Belarus, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kazakhstan, Sadyr Japarov, President of Kyrgyzstan, Emomali Rakhmon, President of Tajikistan, Serdar Berdymukhamedov, President of Turkmenistan, and Shavkat Mirziyoyev, President of Uzbekistan, joined Putin at the 9 May Victory Day parade on the Red Square.

To quote the ISW's Key Takeaways on 9 May:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin declined to use his Victory Day address to make any significant rhetorical changes and reiterated existing narratives, preparing for a protracted war and framing Russia as successfully resisting the entire West.
  • Putin additionally attempted to use Victory Day celebrations to rally Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) partners, many of which have sought to reduce their reliance on the Kremlin since February 2022.
  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin likely seized the Victory Day holiday as an opportunity to mock Putin and question his judgment in one of his most direct challenges of Putin to date.
  • Prigozhin announced that Wagner forces will not withdraw from Bakhmut by the previously stated deadline of May 10 despite the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) failing to resolve the claimed "shell hunger."
  • Prigozhin’s failure to abide by the withdrawal threat he made on May 5 indicates that he is cognizant of his dependence on the Russian MoD.
  • Prigozhin continued to blame high casualties and the slow pace of advance in Bakhmut on other Russian irregular formations to frame Wagner as the only competent force operating in the area.
  • Russian forces conducted another large-scale series of missile strikes against Ukraine on the night of May 8 to 9.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks northeast of Kupyansk and along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces continued to make marginal gains within Bakhmut and continued limited offensive operations along the Avdiivka–Donetsk front.
  • Russian forces targeted Ukrainian positions west of Hulyaipole and in Kherson Oblast.
  • Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov opened a new military camp for the "Sever Akhmat" Special Purpose Regiment in the Republic of Chechnya.
  • Russian occupation officials continue to deport civilians deeper into Russian-occupied territory.

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