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What does Russia’s shift in military focus mean for the Ukraine war? | News about the Russian-Ukrainian war

Russian forces in Ukraine have clearly shifted their focus from a ground assault on the capital Kyiv, instead prioritizing what Moscow calls the “liberation” of the disputed Donbas region, the show a new phase of the war.

It is too early to know where this will lead. Did President Vladimir Putin narrow his ambitions to find a way out of the war? The recently dug up defensive positions of some Russian forces near Kyiv provide recognition of Ukraine’s surprisingly resilient resistance.

On the other hand, Russian forces might aim to continue the war with a narrower focus, not necessarily as an end game but as a way of regrouping from early defeats and using Donbas as a weapon. new starting point, analysts say.

Putin’s forces are under strain in many parts of the country, and the United States and other countries are speeding up deliveries of weapons and supplies to Ukraine. In recent days, US officials have said they have seen evidence of Ukrainian military garrison carrying out attacks in several areas. Earlier this week, they managed to attack a large Russian ship in the upper port Black Sea coast.

With a positive face, Russia’s deputy chief of staff said his forces had largely achieved the “main goals” of the first phase of what Moscow called a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Colonel Sergei Rudskoi said that Russian forces have “significantly reduced” the fighting power of the Ukrainian army, and as a result, the Russian military can “focus on main efforts to achieve the main goal of being liberate Donbas”.

For a clear answer to Rudskoi, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Again called on Russia to negotiate an end to the war but firmly said Ukraine would not agree to give up any of its territories for peace.

“Ukraine’s territorial integrity should be guaranteed,” he said in a nightly video address to the nation. “That is, the conditions must be fair, because the Ukrainian people will not accept them.”

‘This is a pause’

A month of fighting has brought Russian forces to a halt in much of the country, including on the roads towards Kyiv.

Since the start of the invasion on February 24, Putin has been vague in publicly describing his military goals in Ukraine. He said the aim was “demilitarization” and “de-NazifyThe government as well as “liberates” Donbas, part of which has been under the control of Russia-backed separatists since 2014.

Putin places more than 150,000 troops on the Ukrainian border and then pushes them in multiple approaches aimed at diverse goals, rather than focusing on a single strategic goal like Kyiv or Donbas.

In the four weeks since, the Ukrainians have put up a much tougher resistance than Putin might have expected, and Russian forces have been slowed by a variety of problems, including weak logistics and perhaps mark the spirit.

Pavel Felgenhauer, a Moscow-based military analyst, said the upcoming spring weather and conditions on the ground could explain Russia’s “pausing” efforts to capture Kyiv and cities other large in the north and west.

“The winter campaign is basically over. There will be floods and more dirt. By May it will all be exhausted and then the summer campaign will most likely be decisive,” Felgenhauer told Al Jazeera.

“Right now there will be a pause with the Russian military explaining to the public that ‘everything is fine, everything is under control, this is a pause’. But things go on and the goals will eventually be achieved.”

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‘Mode change failed’

Omar Ashour, director of critical conflict studies at the Doha Institute, said the Russian military’s comments suggest capturing Kyiv may no longer be on the agenda.

“I think that’s another way of saying the regime change in Kyiv has failed. Attempts to encircle and storm Kyiv have failed, and efforts are now focused on the east,” Ashour told Al Jazeera.

He said that Russia initially had a three-pronged military strategy: to encircle and then capture the capital, capture southern Ukraine and capture the key city of Mariupol. “I’m not sure how successful that will be,” Ashour said.

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Kyiv, said Ukrainians reacted to the Russian military’s statement with “sarcasm and complete distrust” as explosions continued to reverberate in the capital.

“If this campaign is now focused on the Donbas, the war is still going on here. Military analysts in Ukraine see this as Vladimir Putin’s way of declaring success. It could be a way for Putin to manage expectations of a war that most observers say actually didn’t go as planned,” Khan said.

‘Hero of the Resistance’

French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking in Brussels, said it was “too early to say” whether the Russians would change their approach.

“It shows very clearly that in all cases, [Russian] The simultaneous leading campaign by all sides was thwarted by the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people. That’s what we see in a few days,” Macron said.

Stephen Biddle – a professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University who has studied US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere – said it was difficult to decipher Moscow’s intentions from the statement. military on Friday.

“It makes sense that they are basically trying to overthrow the war they perceive to be moving towards something they have accomplished,” he said, referring to the current hold on Donbas parts. Yes. It is also possible that the Russians decided to start the war with the wrong approach, with fighting forces spread too thinly over too many parts of the country, he said. In that case, they could now try to regroup with a focus on Donbas, and make that a new starting point for an attack they could expand on later.

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‘It’s disappointing’

Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, a Washington think tank Putin may be readjusting.

“Moscow may be looking for a way out of its Ukraine quagmire,” he said. “Focusing military goals on controlling the Donbas could be a way of downsizing without conceding defeat.”

Denied the swift victory he seemed to have come to expect prior to launching the invasion, Putin is left with clear choices – how and where to replenish spent ground forces and whether to should attack the flow of Western weapons to the Ukrainian defense forces or not. One big question regarding that second choice: if he should escalate or expand the war at what cost?

Russia’s shortcomings in Ukraine could be the biggest shock in the war to date. After two decades of modernization and professionalisation, Putin’s forces have proved unprepared, poorly coordinated, and surprisingly able to be stopped. The extent of Russian casualties is unknown, although NATO estimates 7,000 to 15,000 people died in the first four weeks.

Robert Gates, a former CIA director and US secretary of defense, said Putin was “deeply disappointed” by his military performance.

“We’re in Ukraine, we’re seeing conscripts who don’t know why they’re there, not properly trained,” Gates said Wednesday at a forum sponsored by The OSS Society. and just had huge command and control problems, and terrible tactics.”

Battlefield trends are difficult to reliably distinguish from the outside, but some Western officials say they see significant changes as possible. Air Vice-Marshal Mick Smeath, London’s defense attaché to Washington, said British intelligence assessed that Ukrainian forces may have recaptured two towns west of Kyiv.

“It is likely that successful Ukrainian counter-attacks will disrupt the ability of Russian forces to reorganize and resume their offensive on Kyiv,” Smeath said.

Not long before Putin start his fightSome military officials suggest that he could take Kyiv in a short time – perhaps days – and that he could disrupt the Ukrainian army within weeks.

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