Russian invasion from Belarus is exceedingly unlikely, however, Vladimir Putin is trying to pull some of the units of the Ukrainian army to the country's northeastern border in order to disperse its forces before the offensive of the Russian army, analysts of the Institute for the Study of War are convinced.
Details: The ISW says that Putin may be setting conditions for further Russian cross-border raids into northeastern areas of Ukraine, likely in an effort to further domestic information operations and pin Ukrainian forces against northern border areas.
The ISW noted that Putin held a meeting on 1 February to discuss the restoration of residential infrastructure in Crimea, Belgorod, Bryansk, and Kursk oblasts following a recent attack from the Ukrainian side. During the meeting, Putin noted that his administration was prioritising the ending of Ukrainian attacks on border regions, but this task was "the business of the military department."
"Putin's focus on the supposed danger of Ukrainian shelling of border regions likely serves a two-fold purpose. It furthers an information operation intended to frame the war in Ukraine as an existential threat to Russian citizens in order to generate domestic support for a protracted war.
Putin may also be setting conditions for escalated cross-border raids in order to distract and disperse Ukrainian forces from critical axes of advance by pinning them to northeastern border areas," the ISW report said.
According to the Institute's assessment, Russian invasion from Belarus is exceedingly unlikely, and the ongoing information operation to pin Ukrainian troops against the northern Ukraine-Belarus border seems to be faltering.
"The threat of cross-border raids from Belgorod, Bryansk, and Kursk oblasts into northern and northeastern Ukraine is likely an attempt to force Ukraine to deploy limited elements to these areas to protect against such attacks, thus dispersing Ukrainian troops to an extent in advance of a likely Russian offensive operation in the coming months," the ISW concluded.
The ISW Key Takeaways as of 1 February:
Ukrainian officials are continuing to warn about Russia's intention of conducting a decisive offensive operation in Donbas in February and/or March.
Russian President Vladimir Putin may be setting conditions for further Russian cross-border raids into northeastern areas of Ukraine, likely in an effort to further domestic information operations and pin Ukrainian forces against northern border areas.
Russian forces continued ground attacks northeast and southwest of Bakhmut.
Russian forces continued limited ground attacks to regain lost positions on the Svatove-Kreminna line.
Russian forces are continuing to carry out unsuccessful disruption missions on islands in the Dnipro River delta in Kherson Oblast in an effort to prevent Ukrainian forces from gaining ground on the islands.
Russian officials plan to propose a moratorium on the public procurement law to simplify spending procedures amid an increasingly costly war effort.
The Wagner Group's prison recruitment efforts may have slowed in previous months.
Crimean partisans may have conducted an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in occupied Crimea on 30 January.
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