Speaking at a Ministry of Defense press conference, Commander of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Intelligence Center Col. Ants Kiviselg said that there has been a significant increase in Russian troop activity in Ukraine over the last week. At the same, Kiviselg stressed that Russia will need to make more and more effort to compensate for its frontline losses.
"Last week the activity of the Russian Federation's armed forces increased significantly, particularly in the direction of Luhansk, where units of the Sixth Combined Arms Army have carried out attacks in the Kupiansk region. Units from the 25th Combined Arms Army have been engaged in combat activities in the Kreminna region," Kiviselg said at the Estonian Ministry of Defense's weekly Friday press conference.
"It can be said that the Russian Federation has taken the initiative in the Kupiansk and Kreminna regions. It has carried out a number of counter-attacks and forced the Ukrainians onto the defensive," he said.
According to Kiviselg, it is likely that the Russian armed forces are aiming to gain control of the crossing points at the Oskil River in the Kupiansk direction, as well as at the Zherebets River in the direction of Kreminna. Doing so would provide a basis for Russian forces to launch attacks on Ukrainian positions more easily in the future as well as reduce the Ukrainians' ability to move across the rivers and attack Russian units in the area.
At the same time, however, he said, the Russian Federation's armed forces are unlikely to have sufficient capabilities in this direction to achieve any major operational success.
Kiviselg said that the most significant developments in the Donetsk direction began on October 10, when the Russian forces intensified the fighting around the city of Avdiivka.
"For the first time in a long while we saw armored vehicles and tanks being used to carry out attacks there," Kiviselg said.
"Their main effort has been to the south of Avdiivka, where they have also had some minor success going southwest from Avdiivka. At the same time, the Russian Federation has suffered heavy losses there, with a lot of armored vehicles destroyed, as well as tanks. At the moment there is active fighting going on there," Kiviselg said.
"At the same time, we have information that the Russian Federation's forces are able to cover the routes from the west into Avdiivka with their indirect fire, which means that it is more difficult for the Ukrainians to provide logistical support for their units in the area and also perhaps to rotate them. What is in the Ukrainians' favor, is that this frontline has essentially been in place since 2014, which means that these defensive positions are well prepared and covered," Kiviselg explained.
According to the EDF colonel, there have been no significant changes in the Zaporizhzhia direction.
"To sum things up, the Russian Federation's activities in an attempt to seize the initiative are aimed at tying up Ukrainian units in other directions than in the one toward Crimea. [This is] so that the Ukrainians would be faced with an operational dilemma, so to speak, whereby they would have to somehow disperse these units and not be able to impose themselves to the south and break [Russia's] land corridor to Crimea," he said.
Kiviselg also said that Russia will have to make an increased effort to make up for the loss of troops, as well as devote more and more resources in order to keep its war machine running. And this is at a time when the country's economic situation is deteriorating.
"The armed forces of the Russian Federation are still recruiting contracted soldiers to cover their losses, with those recruits soon being sent to the front line. And to bolster the recruitment drive, the benefits being offered have been further increased.
Perhaps in the Leningrad Oblast, the sum being promised upon signing a contract is greater than the average annual salary in Russia. The bonuses for recruits have also been increased," said Kiviselg.
Editor: Michael Cole