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Vladimir Putin Tries to Freeze Ukrainian Counteroffensive

Vladimir Putin Tries to Freeze Ukrainian Counteroffensive

Vladimir Putin Tries to Freeze Ukrainian Counteroffensive

Vladimir Putin Tries to Freeze Ukrainian Counteroffensive

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  • Russia initiated limited-scale offensives in the 85th week of the conflict with Ukraine.
  • Russian forces attempted to halt the Ukrainian advance in various regions.
  • Despite Russian efforts, Ukraine continued its counteroffensive.
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In the 85th week of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Russia initiated a series of limited-scale offensives.

It seemed that their objective was to halt Kyiv’s four-month-long counteroffensive by engaging Ukrainian forces in specific areas.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive had made significant gains, reclaiming approximately half of the territory captured by Russia earlier in the year.

This advance breached Russia’s formidable “Surovikin line” of defense, disrupted Russian logistics with deep strikes into Crimea, and denied Russia control over the western Black Sea.

On October 6, Russia renewed its offensive efforts, particularly towards the city of Kupiansk in the northeastern region of the front, as reported by Ukraine’s eastern forces spokesman.

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Russian sources confirmed this ground assault, which followed an artillery barrage.

Back in July, Ukrainian officials had already noted Russia’s attempts to seize Kupiansk, and military analysts have suggested that this action is part of Russia’s strategy to divert Ukrainian forces from areas where they have been achieving success.

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“If I was Russia today … I would do an immediate spoiling attack. I would go on the offensive somewhere,” Colonel Seth Krummrich, a vice president at Global Guardian, a security consultancy, told Al Jazeera in late June.

“I would punch because right now you’re running out of options …  [the Ukrainians] are going to find a breach and they’re going to punch through it,” he said.

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In the subsequent month, Russia indeed carried out actions in Kupiansk, but these efforts failed to halt Ukrainian forces from breaching their initial line of defense on the southern front, near Robotyne, in September.

It appeared that Russian forces near Robotyne had rotated troops belonging to the 291st and 71st Motorized Rifle Regiments following arduous battles in September.

These battles saw Russian forces retreating as the Ukrainian offensive created a growing salient through their minefields and trenches.

In the areas near Robotyne and Verbove, Russian forces were occupied with the task of re-mining the front lines that had previously been cleared by Ukrainian forces.

This action was aimed at slowing down the Ukrainian advance, as reported by a Russian military blog identifying itself as “Paratrooper’s Diary.”

“Although enemy armored vehicles are increasingly appearing in the Robotyne-Verbove section, the enemy has reduced the movement time due to mined areas,” the blogger said. “Our sappers manage to re-mine areas already cleared by the enemy.”

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The blog also verified Ukrainian reports that their counteroffensive was still in progress, noting that artillery fire continued incessantly.

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Russian forces were engaged in offensive actions in other areas as well. In October, up to three Russian battalions launched attacks on Ukrainian defenses near Zherebyanky, situated to the west of Robotyne, claiming an advancement of approximately 2 kilometers (about 1.2 miles).

Additionally, a battalion-level offensive was initiated near Huliaipole on the southern front, with reported advances of “several hundred meters,” as stated by a Russian reporter.

Meanwhile, Russia intensified its efforts to capture Avdiivka, an eastern city that had been encircled to the north and south through a pincer movement.

These tactical maneuvers were designed to slow down the ongoing but gradual Ukrainian advance, particularly with the Russian presidential elections on the horizon.

Igor Girkin, a Russian military officer who organized the Russian militia involved in the conflict since Donetsk and Luhansk declared secession in 2014, offered this perspective.

“With a 99 percent probability, the Kremlin decided to freeze the war until the elections, that is, until March 2024,” wrote Girkin, who goes by the nom de guerre Strelkov, in a letter posted by his wife on social media.

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In his analysis, Russian President Vladimir Putin will do nothing to “seriously aggravate the social, economic and internal political situation in the country”, until spring, the sole priority being “to prevent deep breakthroughs or sensitive operational successes of the enemy”, until then.

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The Kremlin might anticipate a decrease in winter combat operations because of the seasonal rain that could create muddy terrain, rendering tank and armored fighting vehicle movements challenging.

However, Ukraine has asserted that it is capable of sustaining the progress achieved during its summer counteroffensive throughout the winter months.

“If the cold weather hits immediately … the ground will remain frozen and heavy machinery will be able to move on it,” said Ilya Yevlash, Ukraine’s eastern forces spokesman.

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In the face of Russian spoiling attacks, Ukrainian forces continued to push forward with their counteroffensive. In the southern sector, they made slight advancements to the south of Robotyne on October 6 and expanded their territory westward toward the village of Kopani on October 7.

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Additionally, they made efforts to extend their position to the east, aiming for Novofedorivka on October 10.

In the eastern region, they maintained their advance beyond the recently recaptured settlements of Klishchiivka and Andriivka, situated to the south of Bakhmut, as part of their ongoing strategy to encircle the captured city and ultimately regain control of it.

Along the Donetsk-Zaporizhia border, the meeting point of the eastern and southern fronts, geolocated footage indicated their progress near the village of Mykilske on October 10.

Despite the election of a pro-Russia government in Slovakia on September 30, which announced a suspension of weapons deliveries to Ukraine, Slovakia, in coordination with other NATO members, joined efforts to expedite training and the delivery of promised munitions to Ukraine on October 9.

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NATO ministers voted to “further increase their military, intelligence, financial, training and humanitarian support to Ukraine”, including “long-range missiles and multi-purpose fighter aircraft, and to sustain this support for as long as it takes for Ukraine to prevail”.

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