In its latest analysis of the war in Ukraine, the US think tank wrote: “The current Russian offensive may secure limited additional territorial gains in Donbas northeast of the E40 highway but will likely culminate before seizing major populated areas such as Slovyansk or Bakhmut.”
The US experts added: “Russian forces have not made significant advances towards Slovyansk or along the Siversk-Bakhmut salient in the past few weeks and are continuing to degrade their own offensive combat power in localised fights for small and relatively unimportant settlements throughout Donetsk Oblast.”
“Russian troops have notably been attempting to take Siversk since the capture of Lysychansk and the Luhansk Oblast border on July 3 and have still not reached the city as of July 20,” the ISW also said.
It added that Russian troops "have failed to launch direct assaults on Bakhmut and have largely impaled themselves on fights for small settlements to its east and south.”
Moreover, efforts to advance on Slovyansk "have mostly ground to a halt and have made no meaningful gains for weeks,” the think tank pointed out.
The US analysts assessed that "the renewal of active ground offensives following the brief operational pause has not yet translated into meaningful Russian forward progress, although it is possible that either steady Russian pressure or the completion of Russian efforts to rebuild combat power could generate limited gains in the coming days or weeks.”
Russia expands military aims in Ukraine
Meanwhile, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday said that his country’s objectives in Ukraine now extended beyond the eastern Donbas region, with new targets including Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south.
The ISW said this confirmed its “long-held assessment that Russia has territorial goals beyond Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.”
However, the US experts wrote that “Lavrov’s calls for maximalist territorial objectives are notably divorced from the slow and grinding reality of recent Russian operations in Ukraine."
Ukrainian counteroffensive pressure "is complicating Russian efforts to consolidate military control of occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts, and it is unclear how the Kremlin will generate the offensive combat power needed to take significant new amounts of Ukrainian territory,” according to the US think tank.
The ISW also reported that Ukrainian forces "conducted the second consecutive high-precision strike against the Antonivskyi Bridge-- a major Russian logistics artery east of Kherson City.”
According to the ISW, “Russian occupation authorities are likely propagandising recent Ukrainian high-precision strikes and partisan activity to set conditions for mass deportations of Ukrainian citizens to Russian territory.”
Russian forces approaching Vuhlehirska power plant
Meanwhile, the UK Ministry of Defence on Thursday assessed that “Russian and separatist forces continue to attempt small scale assaults along the Donbas front line.”
Writing in their latest intelligence update, the UK analysts added: “Russian forces are likely closing in on Ukraine’s second biggest power plant at Vuhlehirska, 50 km north-east of Donetsk.”
According to the UK Ministry of Defence, Russia is "prioritising the capture of critical national infrastructure, such as power plants.”
However, "it is probably also attempting to break through at Vuhlehirska, as part of its efforts to regain momentum on the southern pincer of its advance towards the key cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk,” the British analysts said.
'Ukrainian soldiers forced the occupiers to flee'
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on Thursday reported that “the enemy carried out assaults with the aim of taking over the territory of the Vuhlehirska TPP. It was unsuccessful. Ukrainian soldiers forced the occupiers to flee. Fighting continues in the Novoluhansky region.”
At the same time, “the enemy is conducting assault operations near Ivano-Daryivka" to the south-east of Siversk,” Ukraine’s military command said, adding that "the fighting continues."
Russian forces continued to shell Ukrainian positions and settlements along the contact line in the Donbas, as well as in southern Ukraine and to the north and east of Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, according to the Ukrainian General Staff.
Ukraine’s military command also reported: “According to the available information, in the military units of the armed forces of the Russian Federation, there is a tendency to dismiss a significant part of personnel who served under short-term contracts. Also, most servicemen refuse to extend long-term contracts that have expired.”
Thursday is day 148 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Source: PAP, understandingwar.org, facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua