The ISW made the assessment in its latest report on the war in Ukraine, published on Wednesday night, Polish state news agency PAP reported.
The Washington-based think tank said: “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s alluded decision to postpone his annual address to the Russian Federation Assembly indicates he remains uncertain of his ability to shape the Russian information space amidst increasing criticism of his conduct of the invasion of Ukraine.”
The ISW noted that "the Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly to the Russian State Duma and Federation Council is an annual speech introduced to the Russian constitution in February 1994, roughly equivalent to the US President’s annual State of the Union address.”
Putin’s address postponed to 2023?
The US experts quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying that Putin may deliver his address to parliament in 2023.
Peskov has called on Russians to stop "fortune-telling with coffee grounds regarding the timing of the next address,” according to the ISW.
The US think tank noted that Putin held his last “state of the nation” address in late April 2021, “discussing his initiatives for the year following the first crisis he caused with the Russian military buildup on the Ukrainian border in early 2021.”
According to the ISW, the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine’s Kyiv region and northern Ukraine in April “likely spoiled Putin’s plans to declare victory during the Federation Assembly address.”
The US analysts said that “Putin had previously seized the opportunity in March 2014 to deliver the ‘Crimean Speech,’ wherein he announced the illegal annexation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.”
The ISW suggested that Putin “likely anticipated a similar outcome in early spring only to indefinitely postpone the address, likely as a result of Russian military failures, his announced annexation of territories Russian forces did not control, and public dissatisfaction with mobilization.”
Putin 'hoping to deliver grandiose victory speech'
In the view of the US experts, “Putin may be still waiting and hoping to deliver a grandiose victory speech in 2023 or postponing the moment when he will have to admit that Russia cannot achieve his frequently restated maximalist aims in Ukraine.”
The ISW also suggested that “Putin may not be confident in his ability to justify the cost of his war upon Russian domestic and global affairs when addressing the Russian public and elites.”
The US think tank noted that “Putin’s most recent appearances on December 7 and December 9 offered vague responses to a few concerns over the length of the war, a second mobilization wave, and a claimed Ukrainian threat to Russian territory but also generated some criticism and confusion within the Russian pro-war community.”
Moreover, Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson City “angered prominent nationalist ideologists who had begun to question Putin’s commitment and ability to establish ‘Greater Russia,’ the ISW reported.
These developments come after Putin had already cancelled his annual press conference with members of the Russian public, “likely in an attempt to avoid answering questions about Russia’s military failures without resorting to excessively obvious manipulation of questioners and questions,” the US experts also said.
Ukraine secures release of 64 POWs: Zelensky
Meanwhile, a further 64 Ukrainian prisoners of war have been released from Russian captivity, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Wednesday night.
Speaking in his nightly address to the nation, Zelensky said: “Today, 64 Ukrainians were returned from Russian captivity. 64 warriors. Four officers and 60 privates and sergeants. Among them are seriously wounded. We provide adequate assistance to everyone.”
He added: “We continue to work to free and return home every Ukrainian man and woman still held captive in Russia. I would like to thank our team that ensures the exchanges.”
Russia says Ukraine's Western-supplied arms are ‘legitimate targets’
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that all weapons supplied to Ukraine by the West were "legitimate targets" for Russia, Britain’s The Guardian newspaper reported.
Zakharova added that Western weaponry would be “either destroyed or seized,” according to The Guardian.
Thursday is day 295 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Source: PAP, understandingwar.org, president.gov.ua, The Guardian