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ISW Analysts Do Not Exclude Second Russian Offensive On Kyiv From Belarus

ISW Analysts Do Not Exclude Second Russian Offensive On Kyiv From Belarus

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Researchers from the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) assess the repeated offensive of Russians from Belarusian territory as unlikely, but possible. This is stated in the daily issue of the ISW analytical bulletin, the text of which is posted on the official portal of the institution.

 “Moscow has been setting conditions for a new most dangerous course of action (MDCOA) - a renewed invasion of northern Ukraine possibly aimed at Kyiv - since at least October 2022. This MDCOA could be a Russian information operation or could reflect Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actual intentions. Currently available indicators are ambivalent - some verified evidence of a Russian buildup in Belarus makes more sense as part of preparations for a renewed offensive than as part of ongoing exercises and training practices, but there remains no evidence that Moscow is actively preparing a strike force in Belarus. Concern about the possibility that Putin might pursue this MDCOA is certainly not merely a Ukrainian information operation intended to pressure the West into supplying Kyiv with more weapons, as some Western analysts have suggested. ISW continues to assess that a renewed large-scale Russian invasion from Belarus is unlikely this winter, but it is a possibility that must be taken seriously,” the daily report from the ISW said.

The Institute document notes that on December 24, the Russian Ministry of Defense defiantly announced the presence of a field hospital in Belarus. Before that, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that Russian troops plan to deploy at least another field hospital in Belarus.

“Field hospitals are not necessary for training exercises and could indicate preparation for combat operations. The appearance of field hospitals in Belarus in early 2022 was among the final indicators observed before Russia commenced its full-scale invasion,” the Institute said.

Analysts also noted that Russia continues to deploy troops in Belarus under the guise of a drill, and some Russian Т-90 tanks deployed in Belarus in late December 2022 were seen in winter camouflage.

“Equipping tanks with winter camouflage is not wholly necessary for training activity and could indicate preparation for actual winter combat operations. The deployment of field hospitals and repainting tanks could also be parts of an information operation,” the report said.

Currently, the ISW estimates the risk of a Russian invasion of Ukraine by Belarus as low, but possible.

The plans of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s team to present a peace plan at the institute in February are also associated with the likely unsuccessful offensive of the Russian Federation from the north in early 2023.

Key ISW Takeaways for December 23:

- ISW assesses that the Kremlin has been setting conditions for a new most dangerous course of action (MDCOA) - a renewed offensive from Belarus possibly aimed at Kyiv - since at least October 2022. The Kremlin may be conducting an information operation or may actually be preparing for this MDCOA, which ISW continues to assess to be unlikely but possible.

- Prominent Russian pro-war military bloggers are amplifying the possibility of the MDCOA over the winter-spring period.

- The Russian military continues to trip indicators for the MCDOA, reinforcing an information operation designed to establish the plausibility of the MDCOA or preparations to execute it.

- The Russian military has more clearly been setting conditions for an offensive in northwestern Luhansk Region.

- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is reportedly preparing to present a peace plan in February 2023, which could be timed to exploit a failed Russian winter offensive.

- Russian President Vladimir Putin’s renewed public appearances likely indicate that he has become more concerned about his popularity and image in Russia.

- Russian forces conducted at least two reconnaissance-in-force operations in northern and northeastern Ukraine on December 22-23.

- Ukrainian forces likely made tactical gains east and south of Bakhmut City over the past 72 hours.

- Russian forces are continuing to establish defensive positions in left-bank Kherson and Zaporizhia oblasts and are conducting defensive operations in southern Ukraine.

- The Kremlin is intensifying its censorship efforts to silence concerns over an expansion of the Russian Armed Forces and a second mobilization wave.

- Ukrainian partisans continued to target Russian officials in occupied territories.



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