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Delays in Western aid help Russia launch offensive on 3 fronts simultaneously – ISW

Monday, 19 February 2024, 04:45
Delays in Western aid help Russia launch offensive on 3 fronts simultaneously – ISW
Ukrainian soldier. Photo: General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

Delays in the provision of Western security aid to Ukraine have helped Russia launch offensive operations on several fronts at once to put pressure on Ukrainian forces there.

Source: Institute for the Study of War (ISW)

Details: Analysts said that Russian troops are currently conducting at least three offensive operations on these fronts:

  • along the border of Kharkiv and Luhansk oblasts, in particular near Kupiansk and Lyman; 
  • in and around Avdiivka; 
  • near Robotyne in the west of Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

ISW estimated, as did several Ukrainian and Western sources, that delays in the delivery of Western security aid, such as artillery ammunition and critically important air defence systems, did not let Ukrainian forces defend Avdiivka from the Russian offensive. 

A critical shortage of Western-supplied equipment and fears of a complete cessation of US military assistance forced Ukrainian forces to disperse their equipment across the line of contact, which likely encouraged Russian forces to take advantage of the situation.

The Russians have launched offensives outside Avdiivka, along the border of Kharkiv and Luhansk oblasts since early January 2024, and in the western part of Zaporizhzhia Oblast in the last 48 hours.


ISW believes that this Russian offensive is likely to prevent Ukrainian forces from preparing personnel and equipment to resume counteroffensive operations.

Ukraine will suffer if it simply digs in and tries to defend itself until the end of 2024, as some Western powers and analysts advocate.

To quote the ISW’s Key Takeaways on 18 February: 

  • Ukrainian forces will likely be able to establish new defensive lines not far beyond Avdiivka, which will likely prompt the culmination of the Russian offensive in this area.
  • Delays in Western security assistance to Ukraine are likely helping Russia launch opportunistic offensive operations along several sectors of the frontline in order to place pressure on Ukrainian forces along multiple axes.
  • Russian forces are likely seeking to take advantage of two windows of opportunity with the recent initiation of their simultaneous offensive operations—the period before the upcoming spring thaw and the nuanced dynamics of Western aid provision.
  • The Russian capture of Avdiivka after four months of intensified offensive operations exemplifies the way that Russian forces pursue offensive operations that do not necessarily set conditions for wider operational gains but still force Ukraine to commit manpower and materiel to defensive operations.
  • Russian forces have not yet demonstrated an ability to secure operationally significant gains or conduct rapid mechanised manoeuvre across large swaths of territory, and the capture of Avdiivka should not be taken as demonstrating this capability.
  • Ukrainian officials are investigating two instances of apparent Russian violations of the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war (POWs) in occupied Donetsk Oblast.
  • Russian military bloggers criticised the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) for failing to recognise 1st Donetsk People’s Republic Army Corps (DNR AC) Commander Lieutenant General Sergei Milchakov and the Veterany Assault Brigade (Volunteer Corps) for aiding in the Russian capture of Avdiivka, highlighting continued tension between Russian regular and irregular forces (Donetsk People’s Republic is a non-recognised and self-proclaimed quasi-state formation in Donetsk Oblast – ed.).
  • The Washington Post reported that the Kremlin has been orchestrating a large-scale effort to spread disinformation in the Ukrainian media since January 2023, corroborating recent Ukrainian official reports about Russian information operations that use fake Telegram channels to infiltrate the Ukrainian information space.
  • Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced on 18 February that Denmark is donating its "entire artillery" to Ukraine.
  • The US is reportedly turning to India and China to engage Russia about Russia’s reported intent to launch an unspecified anti-satellite nuclear weapon into space.
  • Russian forces recently made a confirmed advance in western Zaporizhzhia amid continued positional engagements along the entire line of contact on 18 February.
  • Russian occupation officials continue to use educational programs as means of Russifying occupied Ukraine.

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