Russian forces in Ukraine expected to be exhausted by January 2023

There is a strong sign that Russian President Vladimir Putin is reaching his limit – and it could signal the end of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

Russia is a ticking time bomb. And President Vladimir Putin is being liquidated. So now the world is waiting for its invasion of Ukraine to explode in its face.

Ukrainian intelligence estimates that Russia has only enough fuel, ammunition and military equipment to sustain another seven months of strenuous efforts. In January, Putin’s forces will be exhausted.

“The active phase should reach its maximum decline by the end of the year,” Ukrainian intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said.

“Russia has 12 months of resources to fight a normal war.”

The signs of decline are already evident.

This week, pictures emerged of 60-year-old T-62 tanks rolled out of storage to replace Russia’s staggering frontline losses.

Unconfirmed Ukrainian claims put Russia’s losses after three months of war at 1,300 tanks, 3,200 armored vehicles, 600 artillery pieces and 29,000 troops.

But Moscow remains determined to save the reputation of its autocratic head of state.

It is progressing slowly but steadily in eastern Ukraine.

“The fighting has reached its maximum intensity,” Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Malyar said during a press briefing earlier this week. “We have an extremely difficult and long combat stage ahead of us.”

Moscow again called on Ukraine to start ceasefire talks. But it was rejected.

Mr. Budanov reiterated Ukraine’s determination not to cede an inch of land to the Russian invaders. There would be no surrender. There would be no truce – or ceasefire – leaving occupied Donbass in Russian hands.

“It will end with one thing: the return of our occupied territories,” Budanov said.

At Christmas ?

This is not how Russia sees it.

I wanted to say once again, addressing the residents of the Kherson region, that Russia is here forever. There should be no doubt about that,” Kremlin Senator Andrei Turchak said. “There will be no going back to the past.”

But it remains to be seen whether the Russian military can pull it off.

US intelligence agencies believed that Moscow’s military was reorganizing for a more protracted campaign.

He withdrew from Kyiv. He is entrenched in southern Ukraine. And it shows signs of abandoning attempts at broad encirclement maneuvers to the east in favor of small but steady advances.

“A Russian military foothold in the southeast would make any scenario to end this war more costly in lives and resources,” warns Nataliya Bugayova, analyst at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

“Control of Ukraine remains the goal of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and that goal will not change. The time has come for Ukraine to expand its counter-offensive, and to do so it needs military assistance from the West.

While Russian troops have been pushed back towards their border in northeastern Ukraine, the situation is more fluid elsewhere. A high-attrition assault on a narrow front saw part of a major highway between two Ukrainian cities fall under its control.

Moscow sent thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks in the attempt to encircle Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk on the Siverskiy Donets River.

“It is clear that our boys are slowly retreating to more fortified positions,” Luhansk provincial governor Serhiy Haidai said at the weekend. “We have to hold back this horde.”

It can become a case of “last man standing”.

scrape the barrel

Moscow has begun to remove obsolete Cold War-era tanks from storage. He plans to requisition civilian ships. And the maximum conscription age is about to be dropped.

The Russian Duma voted to scrap the upper age limit for military conscription earlier this week. Now, any man over the age of 18 can serve. It used to be that turning 40 was an exit ticket.

This is proof of the pressure that Putin’s “special operation” in Ukraine has placed on his unprepared army.

“Russia is approaching the limits of the combat-capable manpower it can make available for short-term warfare,” Bugayova said. “Troops have been withdrawn from every possible direction: redeployed private military contractors, recruits from Syria and forcibly conscripted residents of the occupied areas. There are few options left.

T-62 tanks, which entered service in 1962, were photographed and filmed being transported by train to the city of Melitopol in southern Ukraine.

“Due to the losses suffered during the hostilities, the Russian enemy was forced to remove T-62 tanks from storage to recruit reserve battalion tactical groups which are being formed to be sent to Ukraine,” noted a message from the Ukrainian army on Facebook.

60-year-old tanks are no match for modern weapon systems.

But the more modern T-90s, T-80s and T-72s that had formed the combat core of the Russian motorized battle groups also fared poorly.

Drones. Man-portable anti-tank missiles. Guided artillery. All proved to fit Moscow’s idea of ​​rapidly advancing heavy firepower. Instead, a lack of infantry and fighter aircraft support often left these armored vehicles exposed and vulnerable.

In a single instance last week, 70 Russian tanks were reportedly destroyed by Ukrainian artillery as they attempted to cross a river.

Ukraine says more than 1,300 were destroyed. Open source intelligence visually confirmed 700 of them.

Interesting times

US Defense Intelligence Agency chief Scott Berrier told the US Congress earlier this month that he believed the war had reached a point of “stalemate”. That, he said, meant it could go on for a long time yet.

“The longer Russia is allowed to stay, the more expensive it becomes to drive her out,” explained ISW’s Ms Bugayova. “Time also gives Putin the opportunity to adapt the Russian people to the idea of ​​a long war and put the Russian economy on a war footing.”

It remains to be seen how much time each side can gain with reserve gear and combat prowess.

“It would take Putin months to send usable new combat troops to Ukraine,” she said.

“Once rejuvenated, however, Russian military progress in Ukraine could be very different if they attacked from their current lines, compared to their February starting positions.”

What matters now is the ability of Ukrainian forces to continue to resist. And Putin’s ability to maintain his grip on power.

“Three months after the launch of his ill-conceived invasion of Ukraine, it seems increasingly likely that Putin’s attempt to liberate the Donbass from Kyiv will be remembered as one of the most spectacular failures of the contemporary military history,” says Anders Åslund, an analyst at the Stockholm Free World Forum. .

Time is running out, says Ms. Bugayova. “The less successful the Russian offensive is in the east, the more critical the Kremlin’s need to secure the areas it has already seized will become.” Putin needs a win, she added.

“It buys him time to reassess a long-term strategy to achieve his enduring goal of regaining control of Ukraine. It’s an exit ramp for Putin, but it’s only temporary.

But Mr Åslund argues that Putin’s time is already running out.

“The conventional wisdom is that Putin’s Praetorian Guard, the Presidential Protective Service, is so strong, well paid and loyal to Putin that it will protect him against any coup attempt,” he says.

“However, the cost of Putin’s continued leadership to Russian society is so high that it would be surprising if no group mobilized against him.”

Jamie Seidel is a freelance writer. | @JamieSeidel

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