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EDF colonel: Soldiers' morale becomes key as weather worsens in Ukraine

EDF intelligence commander Col. Ants Kiviselg.
EDF intelligence commander Col. Ants Kiviselg. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

With weather conditions deteriorating, fighting on the ground Ukraine is expected to subside. However, this will make soldiers' morale all the more important, said Col. Ants Kiviselg, head of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Intelligence Center.

"The situation on the Ukrainian front line has not changed very much over the last week. The overall intensity of fighting has decreased when compared to previous weeks, with one exception. In the Avdiivka region, the number of attacks by the Russian Federation has been increasing," Col. Kiviselg said at the Estonian Ministry of Defense's weekly Friday briefing.

The reasons for the decline in combat activity are mostly related to changes in the weather, he said. "Increased rainfall, combined with temperatures continuing to be above zero, make the ground muddy and difficult for machinery to negotiate. Rain showers and low cloud cover also discourage the use of air assets, especially drones," the colonel added.

Russia pushing for success in Avdiivka

Col. Kiviselg said the main focus for Russian forces is in the Avdiivka region, where the most active fighting in recent weeks has been taking place. A build-up of armored vehicles on the Russian side has also been detected in that area, indicating continued attempts to force a breakthrough.

Avdiivka falling into Russian hands would certainly make it more complicated for Ukrainian units to hold fire on targets in Donetsk, including railways and logistics routes used by Russian forces. "Therefore, Russian Federation units are trying to create a buffer zone to protect Donetsk," Kiviselg said.

"It is likely that the intensity of the current offensive activity in the direction of Avdiivka and one of the objectives of a possible deployment is to break the Ukrainians' fighting spirit," the EDF intelligence chief added.

Ukraine more successful in the south

In the southern section of the front, however, Ukrainian forces have been able to hold on to the areas they have re-captured, especially on the eastern bank of the Dnieper River, Kiviselg said.

The Ukrainian forces' two main objectives in the area are to gain control the left bank of the Dnieper and to push Russian units southwards, thereby sparing the city of Kherson from indirect Russian fire, the EDF colonel said.

"The Ukrainians' aim is also certainly to expend Russian armed forces units south of Kherson and put the Russians in a position where they will need to redeploy units and bring in additional ones to defend their southern front. This would then mean a reduction in Russian pressure elsewhere," Kiviselg said.

"Over the coming weeks, it is unlikely that the Russian Federation will achieve an operational breakthrough in Ukraine. This [possibility] will be limited by weather and also the balance of forces. With the onset of the winter frost, the likelihood of there being Russian Federation attacks against Ukraine's critical infrastructure will continue to rise," he added.

"In terms of the bigger picture, you could say, that the offensive on the Russian side is beginning to show signs of waning, due to the worsening weather. If mobility is restricted, armored vehicles are inhibited and the trenches are filling up with water, then what will start to emerge will be more of a battle of wills. And there is no doubt that Ukraine will have a much greater will to win these battles as it defends of its own country," Kiviselg said.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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