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ISW explains why Russian Defence Minister lied about capture of Krynky

Wednesday, 21 February 2024, 06:34
ISW explains why Russian Defence Minister lied about capture of Krynky
Ukrainian defenders on the left bank of Dnipro. Stock photo: Zelenskyy's social media

Experts from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) suggest that the Kremlin needs statements about the capture of a bridgehead on the left bank of Kherson Oblast to enhance the desired information effect prior to the presidential election.

Source: Institute for the Study of War (ISW)

Details: Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that Russian troops had captured Krynky on the eastern (left) bank of Kherson Oblast, although visual evidence from open sources, as well as Ukrainian and Russian reports, indicate that the Defence Forces hold a limited foothold in the area.


Shoigu said during a briefing with Putin that Russian forces had mopped up Krynky, although Putin claimed that Russian Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky, who commands the Dnepr group, had told him that a small number of Ukrainian troops remained in the village.

Shoigu denied Teplinsky's claim and presented the Russian effort as a successful operation, and praised the airborne troops and the 810th Marine Brigade for their role in the operation, a typical Kremlin praise after a Russian capture of a tactical objective.

At the time of writing, ISW experts have not observed any visual evidence of any significant Russian advance near the limited Ukrainian foothold in and around Krynky, and Colonel Nataliia Humeniuk, Head of the Joint Press Centre for Operational Command Pivden (South), said that Ukrainian forces continue to gradually expand their foothold in the area.

In addition, Russian military bloggers claimed that regular positional fighting continued near Krynky on 19 and 20 February and did not note any Russian successes in the area.

The report suggests that the Kremlin may have "prematurely claimed" Russia's capture of Krynky to enhance the desired information effect ahead of the March 2024 presidential elections, although the Kremlin is likely creating expectations that the Russian military may not be able to meet.

Shoigu called the alleged capture of Krynky by Russian troops the official end of the Ukrainian counteroffensive of the summer of 2023.

As the analysts said, the Kremlin, in particular, has been hesitant to acknowledge that Russia has seized the initiative throughout the entirety of the fighting in Ukraine, likely due to potential concerns about Russia's ability to advance, and Shoigu may have officially declared the "end" of the Ukrainian counteroffensive to publicly emphasise that Russia has the initiative.

The review concludes that the Kremlin may increasingly claim victories on the battlefield in Ukraine without full guarantees of Russian tactical and operational success to support a narrative effort that simultaneously glorifies Putin and demoralises Ukraine, although this growing rhetorical confidence may create expectations in the Russian information space that the Russian military cannot meet.

To quote the ISW’s Key Takeaways on 20 February:

  • Ukraine has been defending itself against illegal Russian military intervention and aggression for 10 years.
  • Russia’s grand strategic objective of regaining control of Ukraine has remained unchanged in the decade since its illegal intervention in Ukraine began.
  • Russia worked hard to obfuscate its grand strategic objectives of regaining control of Ukraine between 2014 and the start of the full-scale invasion in 2022.
  • Russian military intelligence is reportedly learning from its failures in recent years and has renewed efforts against NATO states.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu preened themselves on the Russian seizure of Avdiivka.
  • Shoigu also claimed that Russian forces completely seized Krynky in east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast, although available open-source visual evidence and Ukrainian and Russian reporting suggests that Ukrainian forces maintain their limited bridgehead in the area.
  • The Kremlin likely prematurely claimed the Russian seizure of Krynky to reinforce its desired informational effects ahead of the March 2024 presidential election, although the Kremlin is likely setting expectations that the Russian military may fail to meet.
  • The New York Times (NYT) reported that the Ukrainian withdrawal from Avdiivka may have left hundreds of Ukrainian personnel "unaccounted" for.
  • Ukrainian officials launched an investigation into additional apparent Russian violations of the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war (POWs) in Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
  • Russian forces made a confirmed advance west of Avdiivka amid continued positional engagements along the entire frontline.
  • The Kremlin continues to promote Russia’s efforts to expand its defence industrial base (DIB).
  • Zaporizhzhia Oblast occupation authorities are expanding public services provision in occupied parts of the oblast to consolidate bureaucratic control and generate dependencies on the occupation administration.

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