Russia is capable of making up for its human losses in Ukraine with new recruitments, which means that it can continue waging this war at its current pace for a long time, Col. Margo Grosberg, chief of the Military Intelligence Center of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF), said Friday.
While Russia's reserves aren't in as good of shape as Ukraine's, it will nonetheless manage to bring an additional some 190,000 men into the army following the recruitment wave announced April 1, Grosberg said at Friday's weekly briefing at the Ministry of Defense.
Russian leaders had aimed to arm an additional 400,000 troops with this recruitment campaign, however even just half that would suffice for compensating for their losses to date, which total in the range of 140,000 troops, he added.
The intelligence chief said that according to Estonia's estimates, since the start of the war, Russia has racked up a total of 130,000-140,000 casualties, including deaths and those severely injured who won't be returning to the front.
"If they now manage to recruit an additional some 190,000 men by the end of the year, then they'll be able to make up for these losses, which means that the war will be prolonged," he explained. "But at the same time, that gives Russia's political leadership the chance to avoid declaring a mobilization like the one last fall. With this recruitment tempo, they'd be able to maintain the status quo, as has been the case throughout this year."
Russia advancing in north, Ukraine in south and east
Grosberg also provided an overview Friday of the situation on the front in Ukraine, where alongside Ukraine's own progress, Russia has managed to advance along some sections as well. By and large, he said, the contact line hasn't essentially changed much.
"However, both Russia in some parts as well as Ukraine have achieved tactical successes, and especially in terms of the advancement of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, if this success continues, it may lead to significantly greater gains," he acknowledged.
According to the Military Intelligence Center chief, throughout the front, the initiative remains in Ukraine's hands, and it has seen the greatest progress in the Bakhmut region to the east as well as on the southern front.
Russian troops have seen the most gains along the borders of Kharkiv and Luhansk oblasts toward Svatove and Kreminna, in the area of which they have achieved some tactical success. This is also the area where the Pskov-based 76th Guards Air Assault Division together with its subdivisions remain actively fighting, he added.
The Ukrainians have been been the most successful in the direction of Bakhmut, particularly in regions that lie south of the city. Ukrainian units have managed to reach the village of Klishchiivka and regain control of about half of it.
"The village of Klishchiivka is around seven kilometers southwest of Bakhmut," Grosberg said. "And this place is important because while to date it's been possible to control the southbound supply route to Bakhmut with long-range fire, with the recapture of the village, the opportunity will open up to completely cut off the T0513 highway, the principal southbound supply route for Russian Federation units in Bakhmut, and Russian units' circumstances in Bakhmut will become significantly more challenging as a result."
Ukrainian breakthrough not yet certain
The Estonian colonel said that the most notable events of the past week have taken place in the direction of Velyka Novosilka and Orikhiv, where, with the help of additional units, the Ukrainians have managed to penetrate Russian units' first fortified zone and reached as far as three and a half kilometers in from the front around the villages of Robotyne and Verbove.
"The foreign media has said that this is the beginning of the major offensive," he said. "Unfortunately, I can't currently answer the question of whether that is the case or not. In every attack, you have to reach your enemy's positions, penetrate them and then either advance or hold these positions. And it takes time to understand how successful this driving of a wedge has proven; you have to wait and see how things play out. But this is definitely a crucial win for Ukrainian units."
A more rapid liberation of occupied areas than before would mean a significant increase in the pace of Ukraine's offensive as well as the throwing of even more units into battle.
"But as the Ukrainians have shown us in recent months, they do so with ferocity, and supporting their personnel," Grosberg said. "And most likely, if this isn't now a case of a very cunningly exposed weakest link in the Russian defense lines, then they'll rather keep going at the same, reasonable pace, so to speak."
Editor: Aili Vahtla