The success of Ukrainian units in southern parts of Ukraine has Russia worried and directing additional troops to the area, which indicates that changes in the course of the war can be expected soon, Estonian security expert Rainer Saks said on Vikerraadio morning program "Vikerhommik" on Monday.
While the most active battles since late April have been in Donbas and Russia is even now attacking Bakhmut and Siversk, the intensity of the attacks on the latter two cities has decreased, Saks said.
"We have to see what the next five or six days hold, but it seems as though Russia is still seriously bothered by the Ukrainians' activeness in the Kherson region," he continued, adding that there have been reports over the past three days of bigger military units being relocated from Donbas to southern Ukraine.
"It's too soon to tell yet whether that means that Russia will completely halt their offensive in Donbas — I don't really believe that to be the case — but they don't have a lot of forces capable of attack either," Saks highlighted. "In that sense, some kind of changes may take place in the near future now."
Ukrainian forces haven't managed to push Russian units back from as large of areas as they did in March, but Ukraine's losses have gone down thanks to newer arms received from the West, the security expert said.
They've also managed to inflict losses on Russian units from a distance, as well as destroy artillery ammunition and equipment that Russia had used to bomb Ukrainian forces' positions as well as civilian objects this May.
"So Russian artillery activity has fallen off significantly, due to which Russia has started using even more missiles of all kinds that can be launched from further away, but as we know, Russia does not have very large stocks of [such missiles]," he said.
"Ukraine is playing the game that within a month or two, Russia will likely be facing a shortage of the type of ammunition it has been using to wage its war thus far, and as they're quite obviously already short on personnel and equipment already, then Russia will be forced to abandon its offensive intentions and Ukraine might be able to launch a bigger counteroffensive," Saks said.
Time pressing on Ukraine too
Nonetheless, Saks acknowledged that the time factor is pressing on Ukraine as well, as the latter can't wage a major war as long as Russia can.
"It was initially quite evident that time was on Ukraine's side, as they needed military aid from the West," he said. "The game may still be going according to the plan that this is more beneficial for Ukraine, as Ukraine can better prepare their reserves, and they're more motivated."
He said that Russia hasn't managed to get the process of preparing its reserves going in such a way that it can manage to form new and bigger battle-ready military units and bring them to the front, which should worry Ukraine.
"But that's not going to last, and if Ukraine can't manage to liberate its territory and then switch to defense — that needs to happen within a few months now, within half a year at most — then that pendulum might start swinging back the other way again," the security expert warned. "Because Ukraine definitely has less capacity to wage a high-intensity war in the long term, and while Western countries' military as well as financial aid are currently at very decent levels — although they could be better — Ukrainian society nonetheless can't fight in such a state of tension for so long."
Grain exports to begin
Asked whether grain exports from Ukrainian ports can be expected to begin this week in accordance with an agreement reached with Turkey and the UN, Saks said that they should, at least initially and to some extent.
"I think that this will go the way these things usually go — Russia will try to take more little swipes in order to shake up this process somehow," he said. "But I have a feeling that this won't stop altogether either."
He warned that there may be some minor setbacks, but nonetheless doesn't believe that Russia would truly thwart the process.
"Because if they already went the route of signing this agreement and had [Russian] Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu sign it, who holds a very important position in the Russian power hierarchy, then there's no point in deriding that signature," Saks said. "I'm rather inclined to think that grain exports will take place in some way and to some extent."
No major changes with Russia's new naval doctrine
Commenting on the new naval doctrine signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, Saks said that it doesn't involve any major changes, but rather reiterates preexisting positions.
"It's pretty much the same as the old doctrine — some things are more publicly emphasized," he said. "In that sense, Russia's threat assessment hasn't changed. It's exactly what Russian leadership has been addressing since the start of Putin's term. I don't think there's anything completely new here — Kaliningrad will remain Kaliningrad, and the roles of the Northern Fleet and Pacific Fleet won't be changing."
According to the Estonian security expert, the Navy has always been vital to Russia, but there simply haven't been enough resources for it; thus far, the main emphasis has been placed on the modernization of Russia's air force and rocket forces.
"The Navy has come behind everyone else, and that has always been a challenge for countries whose economy isn't very strong but who have global ambitions, because without a navy, you have no say on the world's seas," Saks said.
Editor: Aili Vahtla