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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Now Or Never? The Five Reasons Putin Is Moving Up His “Spring Offensive” To February

The Russian army is fighting fiercely for every kilometer in the Donbas, amid reports of new masses of troops arriving in Ukraine. By most accounts, it looks like Putin has moved up the calendar on a major assault that was originally planned after the winter thaw.

Photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2023 with a vehicle bearing the letter Z in the background

Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2023

Anna Akage

-Analysis-

As February began, fierce battles were raging in both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine, with elite units of the Russian army and fighters from the Wagner Group mercenary outfit engaged in the action.

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More Russian troops and equipment from all quarters are descending toward a widening front line, all overseen by General Valery Gerasimov, a veteran of the Russian military, who is now commanding both regular defense department battalions and the Wagner soldiers. Gerasimov took over last month, appointed by President Vladimir Putin who was apparently dissatisfied with three previous top commanders of the war.

Taken together, these and other signs from the past week appear to point to Russia launching a major offensive on Ukraine — now. Russia increased the number of missile launchers in the Black Sea with 16 "Kalibr" salvos. In the Luhansk region, they continue to conduct offensive actions in the Lyman and Bakhmut directions. Some reports say the attack will match in breadth and intensity the initial invasion last February.

If confirmed, this imminent Russian assault would be a significant acceleration on the battlefield calendar, after most had been expecting Putin to launch the attack in the spring. Why has Moscow changed its mind?

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