Russia plans to increase the number of army personnel and form new units near both the Estonian and Finnish borders, said Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Chief of General Staff Col. Eero Rebo.
"As we know, Russian defense minister (Sergei) Shoigu has come up with his program, which envisages a significant increase of forces in our region by 2026. This will probably start with the 25th and 138th brigades being transformed into divisions. We expect that the name change will happen first, as both brigades have been deployed to Ukraine for combat," Rebo said.
It is also very likely that Russia will increase its artillery capabilities in Luga, Leningrad Oblast, he added.
"(Russia's) Western Military District will be divided into two. One part would remain in the direction of Moscow, covering the northern part of Belarus and Ukraine. There are also plans to create a separate military district in St. Petersburg, which would face Finland and the Baltic states. This structural change would allow the Putin regime to apply concrete military pressure on a larger scale," Rebo said.
Rebo said that Russia has set a deadline of 2026 for the changes. "Even if it is delayed a bit, this would be an important change in the security situation in our region," he said.
"As things stand now, it is difficult to assess in what form the Russian Federation will be able to meet the targets (it has) set. It is likely that the first order of business will be the renaming of units, and so there will be no significant increase in capabilities near (Estonia's) borders over the next six months," Rebo added.
"Overall, it can be said that the Russian Federation is moving back to the military formations of the Soviet era, such as having the Moscow and St. Petersburg military districts and through the recreation of divisions. (However), in reality, this gradual reorganization of lower-level units and their reconstitution into divisions has been going on for almost the last 10 years. So, we can conclude, that the plan announced by Shoigu had been conceived earlier but has now been accelerated in light of the security situation."
Rain delays Ukrainian counter-offensive
Discussing the current situation in Ukraine, Rebo said that Russian forces have continued to maintain the intensity of their attacks in the direction of Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Marinka.
"(Russia's) attacks have yielded marginal successes in the direction of Bakhmut and Avdiivka. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Putin regime is putting its resources and efforts into preparing its defenses, both in eastern and southern Ukraine. In this context, there is also a rapid drive towards the Kerch bridge, where a logistical network is being prepared in case the Ukrainians are able to cut the logistical supply lines at some point there," Rebo said.
According to Rebo, the weather in the coming days will favor defense rather than attack. "Rain over the weekend will make the ground soft again, and a counter-offensive is probably not imminent," he said.
Editor: Michael Cole