In its latest analysis of the war in Ukraine, published on Tuesday, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think tank wrote: “Russia’s stated objectives in its invasion of Ukraine remain regime change in Kyiv and the truncation of the sovereignty of any Ukrainian state that survives the Russian attack despite Russian military setbacks and rhetoric hinting at a reduction in war aims following those defeats.”
Putin’s initial objectives reaffirmed
The think tank noted that Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev on Tuesday stated that the Russian military operation in Ukraine would continue “until Russia achieves its goals of protecting civilians from ‘genocide,’ ‘denazifying’ and demilitarizing Ukraine, and obliging Ukraine to be permanently neutral between Russia and NATO.”
Thus, Patrushev “almost exactly” restated the goals Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in his February 24 speech justifying the invasion, the ISW said.
‘Significant territorial aspirations beyond Donbas’
According to the US analysts, “Patrushev’s explicit restatement of Putin‘s initial objectives, nearly five months later, strongly indicates that the Kremlin does not consider recent Russian gains in Luhansk Oblast sufficient to accomplish the initial goals of the 'special operation,' supporting ISW’s ongoing assessment that the Kremlin has significant territorial aspirations beyond the Donbas.”
In other words, “Patrushev’s statement suggests that Russian military leadership will continue to push for advances outside Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts and that the Kremlin is preparing for a protracted war with the intention of taking much larger portions of Ukraine,” the ISW said.
Slovyansk, Bakhmut, Kharkiv
Meanwhile, Russian forces on Tuesday continued offensive operations to the northwest and east of the city of Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine. They also “continued efforts to push west from Lysychansk and the Luhansk Oblast border towards Siversk,” the US experts noted.
At the same time, “the continued targeting of Ukrainian positions southeast of Bakhmut indicates that Russian forces likely seek to gain access to village roads between Novoluhanske and Bakmut that lead to the T0513 highway, which runs northwards directly into Bakhmut,” the ISW said.
It added: “Opening that route along with the E40 highway would allow them to advance on Bakhmut along two converging axes.”
The Russian forces also continued limited and unsuccessful assaults north of the city of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine, according to the US analysts.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian units “conducted a limited counterattack southwest of Donetsk City,” the ISW also said.
Occupied areas to be annexed directly to Russia?
At the same time, “Russian authorities continued to escalate conscription measures in order to support force generation efforts,” the US experts reported.
The ISW added that Russian authorities on Tuesday continued efforts “to strengthen administrative and economic control of occupied areas of Ukraine,” apparently preparing to annex them directly to Russia.
Russian missile strike on Slovyansk
Also on Tuesday, Russia conducted sustained artillery bombardment of the eastern city of Slovyansk, Polish state news agency PAP reported.
A Russian missile strike set fire to a market in the city. Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk Oblast, described the assault as “pure terrorism.”
Russia continues attack near Mazanivka, 30 km from Slovyansk
Assessing the situation "in the Slovyansk direction," the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported on Tuesday: “The enemy is trying to improve the tactical position of his units. Fired from mortars, barrel and rocket artillery near Krasnopilla and Bohorodychne. Our defenders repelled the enemy assault and pushed the invaders back to the Dolyna settlement area.”
It added: “The enemy is conducting assault operations near Mazanivka; the fighting continues.”
Kramatorsk, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv
Also in the Donbas, in the Kramatorsk direction, “the enemy shelled civilian infrastructure in the districts of Siversk and Hryhorivka,” Ukraine’s military command said in its latest operational update.
It added: “Ukrainian soldiers inflicted significant losses on the enemy during his attempted offensive in the areas of Verkhnokamianske, Bilohorivka and Hryhorivka settlements. The occupiers left.”
Meanwhile, “in the Avdiyivka, Kurakhivka, Novopavlivka, and Zaporizhzhia directions along the contact line, shelling from mortars, barrel and rocket artillery" continued, Ukraine’s General Staff reported, adding that "the enemy carried out airstrikes near Avdiyivka.”
At the same time, Russian forces continued to "launch rocket attacks on objects in the Mykolaiv region” in the south, Ukraine’s military command said.
It added that Russia was keeping "four carriers of high-precision weapons" in the Black Sea “in readiness for the mission of missile strikes on objects on the territory of Ukraine."
Ukraine continues air raids
According to Ukraine’s General Staff, “Ukrainian strike aviation" continued to "attack the enemy in several strategic directions.”
Most recently, Ukrainian "bombers and attack aircraft" destroyed "two field ammunition depots, two platoon strongholds of the Russian occupiers and more than 10 units of enemy equipment,” Ukraine’s military command reported.
Wednesday is day 133 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Source: PAP, understandingwar.org, facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua