Commentary and Main Takeaways

The Kremlin did not comment on the first anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, likely because Russia has failed to achieve any of its stated objectives and has not made significant territorial gains since July 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his administration made no statements relating to the anniversary even though Putin has made numerous public appearances over the past three days.

Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev made inflammatory claims that Russia will win the war and reiterated that it is vital for Russia to achieve its goals to "push back the borders that threaten [Russia] as far as possible, even if they are the borders of Poland." ISW has previously assessed that the Kremlin has been using Medvedev to sustain information campaigns targeting Western military support for Ukraine and to deflect attention from Russia's military failures. Medvedev's statements highlight the fact that the Kremlin is continuing to pursue its unrealistic maximalist goals even though it has no meaningful successes to offer the Russian people after a year of costly war in Ukraine.

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Select Russian milbloggers commented on the Kremlin's silence on the first anniversary of the war. Russian former officer and an avid Kremlin critic Igor Girkin criticized Medvedev's statements as delusional and lamented the fact that no one remembers the severe losses Russian airborne troops suffered during the fight for Hostomel Airfield near Kyiv on Feb. 24, 2022. Girkin claimed that he had long been forecasting that Russia had embarked upon a protracted and exhausting war. He noted that it is very difficult to defeat a state that receives external support using Russia's unmotivated forces, absent civil society, and strong brainwashing.

A Сounter To JD Vance
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A Сounter To JD Vance

The stark reality is that without very immediate military backing and supplies from the US, Ukraine could lose the war, or at least significantly more territory, the author writes.

A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger attempted to downplay Russia's military failures expressing thanks that the war revealed shortcomings but distress at the high price paid in Russian blood. The milblogger also amplified the Kremlin's false narrative that the war was necessary to stop supposed Ukrainian "aggression" in Donbas. The milblogger's statements closely mirror comments made by unnamed Kremlin-affiliated officials to Financial Times who noted that Putin will try to frame Russia's catastrophic military failures as a necessary learning experience that Russia will use to prepare for future supposed NATO aggression against Russia that Putin purportedly fears.

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Key Takeaways

·       The Kremlin did not comment on the first anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, likely because Russia has failed to achieve any of its stated objectives and has not made significant territorial gains since July 2022.

·       A Russian source capitalized on China's release of a 12-point peace plan to inaccurately portray China as supporting Russia's war in Ukraine.

·       US intelligence reportedly continues to assess that China is seriously considering sending lethal aid to Russia amid continued pressure from Western sanctions regimes on Russia's defense industrial base.

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·       Western governments made a variety of statements on the provision of military aid to Ukraine on February 24.

·       The Kremlin escalated its information condition-setting for a possible false-flag operation in occupied Transnistria, Moldova.

·       Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks northwest of Svatove and near Kreminna.

·       Russian sources confirmed that Russian forces have split certain Airborne (VDV) force formations across at least two axes of advance.

·       Russian forces made marginal territorial gains around Bakhmut and continued to conduct ground attacks across the Donetsk Oblast front line.

·       Ukrainian officials suggested that Russian forces may feel insecure in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast.

·       Russian authorities continue measures to expand the capacity of Russian peacekeepers.

·       Russian sources likely attempted to shift the blame for scandals associated with Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) commanders to the conventional Russian military.

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·       Ukrainian partisans likely blew up a railway segment near Poshtove, Crimea.

 

Authors: Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, Layne Philipson, Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan

See the full report here.

 

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