Ukraine has retaken territory from Russia in recent weeks as Moscow’s military offensive continues to struggle. This comes amid some Russian gains near the frontline, but overall momentum appears to be shifting in Ukraine’s favor.
Recent Ukrainian Gains
According to reports from Newsweek and the Institute for the Study of War, Ukraine has made marginal gains in western Zaporizhzhia over the past week. This includes retaking some villages near the Oskil River.
Additionally, Ukraine continues to consolidate gains made in late 2022 around Kreminna in the Luhansk region, advancing farther southeast of Kupiansk. This slowly erodes Russian positions in the area.
|Early January 2024
|Marginal territory in western Zaporizhzhia near Oskil River
|Early January 2024
|Consolidation around Kreminna, further gains southeast of Kupiansk
These incremental gains show Ukraine’s capability to take back land occupied by Russia through methodical offensives enabled by Western weapons like HIMARS.
Struggles for Russia’s Military
Russia’s military offensive continues to struggle on several fronts, over 10 months into the invasion.
Manpower remains a key challenge. British intelligence reports Russia’s rotations of troops at the front indicate ongoing resourcing issues:
“The deployment of forces from Russia’s Eastern Military District to Ukraine also highlights the continued resourcing challenge Russia faces sustaining its invasion.”
Recruitment efforts inside Russia have proven lackluster, while the use of prisoners and forced conscription in occupied areas have produced questionable results.
This strain has led Russia to rely increasingly on aerial bombing and artillery to make gains, rather than risk close-quarters combat. But Ukraine now has sophisticated air defenses that are shooting down more missiles and drones than before.
“Russian forces have had some success taking small villages…but these laboured tactical gains have come at great cost of Russian military resources,” assessed Britain’s Ministry of Defense.
Recent Russian Gains
While momentum may favor Ukraine in the long run, Russia has made recent gains that show they still pose a threat.
Most notably, Russian troops recaptured lost ground near Robotyne in Zaporizhzhia in late December. Positional fighting continues in the area, though Russian attempts at further advances were repulsed in early January.
Russia also continues a massive, months-long offensive around Bakhmut with Wagner forces that has seen brutal combat and scorched earth tactics. Some intelligence suggests Russian troops may have retaken positions near Verbivka, northwest of Bakhmut, in early January.
So while Russia faces substantial challenges, they maintain enough offensive power to make marginal gains here and there.
Outlook Going Forward
Most analysts seem to agree that while Russia still poses a threat with its artillery and missiles, overall momentum has shifted toward Ukraine in recent months.
Continued weapons supplies from NATO allies could enable methodical gains by Ukraine through 2024, with the aim of eventually liberating all occupied territory.
“Russian forces have initiative on front line,” assessed an Estonian colonel, but said Ukraine is conducting an “attrition war” that is slowly wearing Russia down.
However, Russia’s attacks on civilian infrastructure during winter show they are still willing to further devastate Ukraine to gain leverage in any negotiation.
“No sign so far that Russia is interested in meaningful peace talks. Firing missiles at Kyiv and Ukrainian energy infrastructure proves the opposite.”
So the agony of war seems likely to continue through 2024. Ukraine appears poised to consolidate gains in the east and northeast, but Russia retains enough military power to keep fighting, hoping to exhaust Ukraine’s will to continue. The bravery of Ukraine’s defenders and the sustained support from allies will determine the outcome.
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