According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued an order for his army to halt the Ukrainian counteroffensive and take the initiative in the conflict. This development could signal a grim situation on the front lines in the near future.
ISW reports that Putin has instructed Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to seize the initiative in the war in Ukraine. Currently, Russian forces are dedicating a significant portion of their troops to maintaining defensive positions in the south. The Russian strategy involves holding one tier of the army for defense and another for rapid counterattacks to force Ukraine to withdraw its assault.
Russian military command aims to conduct counterattacks to buy time, but analysts see no logic in this tactic. The costs of such operations are extremely high, and there is no apparent objective. The Russians are unwilling to give up tactical areas and are fighting for every meter of land. Alternatively, they could fall back to better-prepared defensive lines.
The new order from Putin spells bad news for Ukraine. Russia aims to take the initiative? One Ukrainian journalist explains that maintaining defensive positions at all costs could indicate one of two things—either Russia is preparing deeper defensive lines, or it is gearing up for a major counterattack.
According to ISW, both scenarios assume that Russia has reserves to either establish a new defensive position or launch an attack.
ISW also explains that there is a third solution—maintaining positions and not losing ground may have a political objective. Reportedly, Putin has given an ultimatum to his commanders that the situation on the front must improve by early October, and the Ukrainian counteroffensive must be halted. If this is true and Russia can achieve it, we should expect a Russian offensive on some front sectors by early October.