The Institute for the Study of War made the assessment in its latest report on the war in Ukraine, Polish state news agency PAP reported on Thursday.
The Washington-based think tank reported that, at a meeting with the Russian Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights (HRC), “Putin remarked that the ‘special operation’ in Ukraine can be a ‘lengthy process’ and that the acquisition of new territory is a significant result of this process for Russia.”
During the event, Putin also “compared himself favorably with Russian Tsar Peter the Great by noting that Russia now controls the Sea of Azov, which Peter the Great also fought for,” the US experts wrote.
According to the ISW, “this invocation of Russian imperial history explicitly frames Putin’s current goals in Ukraine as overtly imperialistic and still maximalist.”
The US think tank assessed that the Russian president “is setting conditions for a protracted war of conquest in Ukraine.”
Putin “is conditioning Russian domestic audiences to expect a protracted, grinding war in Ukraine that continues to seek the conquest of additional Ukrainian territory,” the ISW said.
The US experts also reported that “the Russian information space” responded positively to Putin’s remarks, with one blogger “comparing Ukraine to Syria and noting that Russian forces did not start meaningfully experiencing victories on the battlefield until years into the operation.”
Russia seeks pause in winter to counterattack in spring: NATO chief
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told the Financial Times on Wednesday that the Russian military sought an operational pause in the winter to regain the initiative and carry out a counteroffensive in the spring, the ISW further reported.
Oleksandr Musienko, director of the Kyiv-based Center for Military and Legal Research, told the PAP news agency that Poland’s proposal to station Germany’s Patriot air defence systems in Ukraine was “good for the security of all of Europe,” but after Berlin’s rejection of the plan, “Ukraine will not cease its efforts to obtain the Patriot systems.”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has been named as the most influential person in Europe by the Politico news outlet.
UN documents killings of civilians in Ukraine
The United Nations has so far documented 441 killings of civilians in Ukraine’s Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions during the first six weeks of the Russian invasion, the Ukrainska Pravda website reported on Wednesday, citing the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
The OHCHR report said the real number could be significantly higher as work was still under way on confirming a further 198 killings in those three regions when they were occupied by Russian forces, according to Ukrainska Pravda.
Meanwhile, the ISW reported that Russian forces had used Iranian-made drones to attack Ukrainian cities for the first time in three weeks, “likely as a result of Russian forces having modified the drones for colder weather.”
The US think tank quoted Ukraine’s Air Force Command Spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat as saying on Wednesday that “Russian forces resumed the use of Iranian-made loitering munitions after a three-week break” and suggested that “Russian forces had faced complications using the drones due to icing issues in colder weather.”
Thursday is day 288 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Source: PAP, understandingwar.org, pravda.com.ua, politico.eu, ohchr.org