EDF chief: Weather conditions favor Ukrainian defense
Chief of the Estonian Defense Forces' (EDF) intelligence center Col. Margo Grosberg said, that while Russian forces are launching attacks on Ukrainian units in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the relatively warm weather for the time of year favors the Ukrainians. As the one year anniversary of the start of the war approaches, Grosberg refrained from making any major predictions about how things might progress.
"In comparison to last week, the activity on the battlefield has increased - albeit on a narrow front," said Grosberg, at an Estonian Ministry of Defense press conference on Friday.
"To some extent, the initiative is falling into the hands of the Russian armed forces," he added.
Grosberg explained that Ukraine's defenses are currently under very heavy pressure in both the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. "Despite this, there have been no major changes to the line of contact," the colonel said.
Grosberg went on to explain, that most of the fighting continues to be concentrated on the area around Bakhmut. Russian forces are trying to contain the Ukrainians there by continuing to attack in both the south and north of the city as they attempt to gain control of Ukraine's westward supply routes.
"Some of [the routes] are already under long-range fire from Russian forces," he said.
In a new development over the past week, Grosberg highlighted the deployment of Russian troops in the direction of Lyman, a city which the Ukrainians liberated in October following a very successful counter offensive operation.
"Russia has concentrated some new units there and replaced older ones. The probable aim is to retake it and thereby put pressure on Slovyansk and Kramatorsk to the east, which Ukraine continues to hold thanks to its defense of Bakhmut," said Grosberg. "One of the aims of capturing Bakhmut is certainly so they can move on to Slovyansk and Kramatorsk," he added.
The strategic importance of Lyman is highlighted by Russia's introduction of its elite air and assault troops to the area.
Russia may also try to increase the pressure in other parts of Ukraine over the coming weeks, with talk of further offensives in the city of Vuhledar in Donetsk Oblast, and Zaporizhzhia Oblast Grosberg said. "We have seen that Russia has brought in units there and they are being reinforced. There have also been troop redeployments in Kharkiv Oblast, particularly in the Svatove and Kupiansk regions," the colonel said.
At the same time however, the weather conditions in the regions where most of the fighting is taking place remain far from ideal for offensive operations, said Grosberg.
"In northeastern Ukraine, or Luhansk Oblast, the temperature is hovering just above or below zero, around the clock. However, in the south it is predominantly just above zero. So, the weather at the moment is rather conducive for defensive actions. The Ukrainians have taken advantage of this and built defensive fortifications at major centers and approach routes," the colonel said.
Commenting on Belarus' role in the war, Grosberg noted that while it has allowed Russian troops to use its territory and airspace since the beginning, and Russian units continue to train there, attacks from Belarusian territory into Ukraine are unlikely in the near future.
"The training of those [troops, who were] mobilized in the fall [in Russia] is now complete. The majority of these units are either on their way to Ukraine or are already in Ukraine. In exchange, the units that were in the fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts have moved to Belarus to undergo further training or for recovery and rehabilitation," the colonel said.
"Nevertheless, according to our assessments, there is no threat of a direct attack on Kyiv coming from Belarus at the moment or in the near future," he added.
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Editor: Michael Cole