According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russian troops have intensified their offensive operations across various frontlines in Ukraine, notably in the most challenging autumn-winter weather conditions.
This strategic move is seen as an attempt to seize and maintain the initiative in the lead-up to the Russian presidential elections in March 2024.
The ISW report highlights that the Russian military is actively engaging in offensive actions along most of the frontline in Ukraine, including the borders of Kharkiv and Luhansk regions, near Bakhmut, the direction of Avdiivka, and continuous ground assaults in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
These developments align with ISW's previous assessments that Russian forces have been striving to regain battlefield initiative since mid-November 2023.
Notably, official statements from the Ukrainian military indicate that Russian forces have managed to seize the initiative in several key areas, while Ukrainian forces maintain the initiative in critical regions of southern Ukraine.
This is evidenced by ongoing Ukrainian counterattacks in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and a substantial Ukrainian presence on the eastern bank of the Kherson Oblast.
The timing of these Russian offensives, during difficult weather conditions rather than waiting for severe frosts, suggests that they are under significant pressure.
Analysts speculate that the Russian command aims to either culminate the Ukrainian counteroffensive or ensure Ukrainian forces cannot resume it early this winter. However, it appears that Kyiv independently chose to scale down its counteroffensive operations before the initiation of Russian offensive actions.
The ISW report also notes that it remains uncertain whether the current Russian offensive operations will enable them to achieve operationally significant gains shortly.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces seem to be using this period to establish and fortify defensive positions in areas where they are not actively conducting counteroffensives, thereby conserving forces and resources for future operations.