Key Takeaways from the ISW:

  • Russian forces have likely committed to offensive operations in multiple sectors of the front during a period of the most challenging weather of the fall-winter season in an effort to seize and retain the initiative prior to the Russian presidential elections in March 2024.
  • Ukrainian forces, by contrast, appear to be using this period of challenging weather and ongoing Russian offensive operations to establish and consolidate defensive positions along the parts of the frontline where they have not been conducting counteroffensive operations, thereby conserving manpower and resources for future offensive efforts.
  • The establishment of local defensive positions in areas Kyiv is not prioritizing for current or imminent counteroffensive operations is a prudent step and not an indication that Ukraine has abandoned all plans for future counteroffensives.
  • The Kremlin-backed United Russia party is spearheading Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nomination as an independent candidate in the 2024 Russian presidential election, and Putin’s re-election campaign initiatives group includes people with a variety of backgrounds and constituencies to create the image of widespread support for Putin’s presidency.
  • Multiple Russian political opposition figures have reportedly developed a common campaign strategy for the upcoming presidential campaign cycle aimed at compelling Putin to address topics he seeks to avoid and revealing the breadth of Russian opposition against Putin.
  • Select Russian milbloggers accused the Armenian government of promoting Russophobic policies that inspire violence against Russian media figures in Armenia on December 9.
  • The European Union (EU) will allow member states to restrict Russian gas imports in an effort to restrain Russian petroleum revenues.
  • A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Russian decoy missiles failed to overwhelm Ukrainian air defenses during December 8 missile strikes against Kyiv City.
  • Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov highlighted Ukrainian anti-corruption efforts and preparations for the arrival of F-16 fighter jets in the near future on December 9.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and advanced near Kreminna.
  • Relatives of mobilized Russian military personnel continued to appeal to the Russian government for the return of their relatives from the war in Ukraine.
  • The Russian Ministry of Culture continues to orchestrate efforts to Russify Ukrainian children and facilitate their deportation to Russia.

Authors: Karolina Hird, Grace Mappes, Angelica Evans, Christina Harward, and Frederick W. Kagan.

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