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ISW analyses Russia's war plan up to 2026, published by Bild

Saturday, 16 December 2023, 06:05
ISW analyses Russia's war plan up to 2026, published by Bild
Map: Bild

The German publication Bild, referring to intelligence data and sources, has reported that Russia plans to occupy Ukrainian territory beyond the borders of the four illegally annexed Ukrainian oblasts during 2024-2026. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has noted that these targets coincide with the ongoing local offensive operations by the Russians.

Source: German news outlet Bild; ISW

Details: Bild said Russia plans to occupy the entire territory of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and up to the Oskil River in Kharkiv Oblast by the end of 2024.


ISW noted that these targets overlap with Russia's ongoing local offensive operations in Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv oblasts.

Bild noted that Russia also plans to occupy a large part of Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv oblasts, including the city of Kharkiv, if possible, in 2025 and 2026.

Мапа Bild
Map: Bild

Bild, citing an insider source, also emphasised that Russia plans to occupy a large part of eastern Ukraine, located east of the Dnipro River, within the next 36 months.

In addition, Russia wants to maintain the current front line in Kherson Oblast along the Dnipro River. It is concerned only with preventing the advance of Ukrainian forces in Ukraine's south and toward occupied Crimea.

Bild stated that Russia's plans are based on the mobilisation of Russia's defence and industrial base, the annual loss of about 100,000 troops in gruelling offensive operations, and the possible election of a new US president in 2024 who will drastically reduce or end military support to Ukraine.

Bild reported that a source familiar with the intelligence said the Kremlin plans to rely on "sham negotiations" to continue offensive operations, similar to how Russia negotiated the Minsk agreements in 2015, while the Russian military continued to occupy more Ukrainian settlements.

The ISW noted that Bild previously published largely accurate intelligence about Russia's plans for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in December 2021. At the time, Bild predicted that Russia would attack Ukraine in the south from Crimea, the Russian-controlled part of Ukraine's east and from the north. Indeed, the newspaper foresaw an attack in late January or early February 2022.

ISW pointed out that it could not independently verify the authenticity of Bild's reports. Still, information about Russia's plans for a war in Ukraine until 2026 is consistent with Russia's preparations for prolonged military action.

The Russian military command is undertaking long-term restructuring and expansion to build strategic reserves, and Russia is gradually mobilising its armed forces to wage a protracted war.

ISW believes that reports about Russia's medium to long-term plans to occupy territory outside the four illegally annexed territories are also plausible, given that Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have recently returned to expansionist rhetoric and Russian troops continued offensive operations to expand their positions in Kharkiv Oblast.

In addition, Russian officials made statements about Russia's intention to occupy and annex additional Ukrainian territory beyond the current front lines.

ISW recently assessed that a sudden end to Western aid would likely sooner or later collapse Ukraine's ability to deter the Russian military, and in such a scenario Russian forces could eventually advance to Ukraine's western border.

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