Col. Tarmo Kundla, head of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) General Staff's ops department, said that Russia is currently looking to gain the initiative on the ground in Ukraine in order to have some form of success to present domestically. This, in his view, is important for Vladimir Putin in the run-up to next year's Russian presidential elections and also for Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu, who aims to consolidate his own position.
"The armed forces of the Russian Federation have continued, as in previous weeks, with their intensified attacks in the direction of Avdiivka-Marinka and Kupiansk-Lyman. It is likely that the main objective for the Russian Armed Forces at the moment is to regain the initiative and to formalize some form of success in order to present it to the [Russian] public as a victory," Kundla said at an Estonian Ministry of Defense press conference on Friday.
In Col. Kundla's view, there are two major reasons for this.
"First, creating a successful military image is important for Putin in light of next year's presidential elections. However, it is also necessary for Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu to secure his position in the ministry," Kundla noted.
"And second, seizing the initiative is important for the Russian Armed Forces in order to stop the Ukrainian counter-attack in the south, more specifically in the direction of Luhansk," he added.
Kundla said, that at a tactical level, the Russian forces' goal is to gain control of the important Zherebets and Oskil river crossings before the road conditions deteriorate further. According to Col. Kundla, The town of Avdiivka itself is important for controlling the road network around Donetsk and extending the Donetsk city buffer zone.
He explained that Ukraine will continue with the raids it has been conducting in Kherson with the possibility of building a bridgehead. "It is likely that their aim is to tie up the Russian Federation Armed Forces there. And isolated bits of information indicate that some units have been brought in by Russia, so things are probably going according to plan [for Ukraine]," Kundla said.
He also added, that Ukrainian units have continued to attack the areas around Robotyne and Bakhmut, making some progress, though nothing significant.
A third factor Kundla highlighted was the Ukrainian attacks on Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, which aim to prevent the use of the naval base.
"Overall, in terms of the bigger picture, the war of attrition continues. On the front line, there is a stalemate, and it can still be expected that neither side will be able to achieve decisive progress in the foreseeable future, as both side's forces are quite similar. It is very difficult to say which side currently holds the initiative. Who takes the initiative now will depend very much on whether Russia succeeds in attacking Avdiivka and how the Ukrainian offensive in the south develops," Kundla said.
Editor: Michael Cole