Defense chief: Russian ground forces in Ukraine likely in two-week pause

Col. Margo Grosberg.
Col. Margo Grosberg. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Russian forces engaged in the current invasion of Ukraine have paused this week following last weekend's capture of the eastern city of Lysychans'k. This break from major offensives on the ground may last another week, commander of the Estonian Defense Forces' intelligence center (Kaitseväe luurekeskus) Colonel Margo Grosberg says.

Appearing at a press conference Friday, Col. Grosberg said: "Unfortunately, the city of Lysychans'k fell last weekend, resulting in Russian units essentially occupying the entire territory of Luhansk region. This is their first declared objective that they have been able to achieve, their first victory, sadly."

The next logical step is likely to be an attempt to capture the entire Donetsk region, lying to the west of the Luhansk oblast, and with it the entire Donbas.

As a result, the past week has been relatively calm in Ukraine, Russian troops have been on a tactical pause, but their next goal should be to capture the entire territory of the Donetsk region, Grosberg said. 

While Russian ground troops thus may not be on the move en masse in Ukraine, Col. Grosberg added, artillery and missile strikes are continuing, including those cities which may be next in line for a full assault, including Slovyansk, Kramatorsk and Bahmut (all in the Donetsk oblast).

The hiatus in ground troop operations is not likely to last beyond two weeks, however, Grosberg said, as to do so would allow Ukrainian forces more scope to regroup and launch a counter-offensive.

In the bigger picture and at a political level, there are signs that the Russian Federation is planning for the war to continue through this year and perhaps into next year, for instance recent legislation tabled at the Duma which puts the national economy on a war footing.

"Otherwise, that wouldn't be done," Grosberg went on.

Grosberg: Russia has lost a third of its battalions

That wartime economy would have plenty to be getting on with given the number of tanks lost in the conflict so far. Grosberg put the figure as high as around a quarter, or the equivalent of one military district's (of five, in the Russian Federation) complement of tanks.

ASto personnel formations, this is harder to assess, Grosberg added, but around 100 tactical battalions remain out of the 139-140 at the start of the war, while of this 100, around 20 are being reorganized at present.

Battalion strengths are down, he added, from the 600-800 at the start of the war.

Supply of U.S.-made M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to Ukrainian forces had had their impact also, as evidenced by the destruction in the past week by a dozen or so Russian supply dumps.

The HIMARS have allowed Ukrainian forećes to push Russian artillery units farther back, he noted, making it more challenging for Russian forces subsequently.

"We still don't see the Ukrainians launching a massive offensive, but they will certainly be better able to defend, and it will be harder for Russian forces to attack [as long as the Ukrainians have HIMARS in their arsenal]," Grosberg said.

While Russia has made further gains in eastern Ukraine, where it has been prosecuting a conflict since 2014, Ukrainian forces have had some success in the southern part of the country, in the vicinity of Kherson, Grosberg added.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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