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Russia invented "active defense of Avdiivka" to hide the real situation - ISW

Shoigu talks about "active defense" of Russian troops near Avdiivka

In Russia, the offensive efforts of the occupation forces have been called part of active defense. This substitution of concepts is necessary for the military and political leadership of the aggressor state to reduce Russians' expectations of significant "victories" of the Russian army in the war against Ukraine.

In particular, following Russian President Volodymyr Putin, Russian Defense Minister Serhii Shoigu started talking about "active defense," in which the occupation forces capture "more favorable positions in all operational areas." What the Russian authorities are trying to hide behind this euphemism, writes the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

The ISW noted that Shoigu continues to mislead Russians by characterizing the attempts of Russian troops to advance on various fronts in Ukraine as part of "active defense." In this way, he seeks to curb Russian expectations about the ability of the "second army of the world" to achieve operationally significant goals.

In particular, he used this erroneous term to describe the situation at the front during a meeting with the Russian military leadership on December 1. According to him, in Ukraine, Russian troops are allegedly conducting "active defense" and seizing more favorable positions in all operational areas.

He also noted the "achievements" of the 15th Motorized Rifle Brigade (2nd Combined Arms Army, Central Military District), the 114th Motorized Rifle Brigade (1st Army Corps of the "DPR"), the 4th and 123rd Motorized Rifle Brigades (both of the 2nd Army Corps of the "LPR"). From this, analysts conclude that all of these units are likely to be involved in areas where Russians are conducting offensive operations in eastern Ukraine.

"Shoigu and Putin began calling Russia's offensive operations to capture Avdiivka 'active defense' after the first Russian mechanized offensive in early October 2023 failed to bring significant tactical success," ISW added.

The analysts reminded that since the beginning of October this year, Russian troops have made several large-scale offensives against Avdiivka and have suffered heavy losses during infantry attacks on the city.

"The characterization of these offensives by Russian officials as part of an 'active defense' is deliberately misleading. Ukrainian forces have never conducted large-scale offensive operations in the Avdiivka area since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, and Avdiivka has been known to be a known foothold since 2014. Nevertheless, the Russian leadership continues to falsely present the operations around Avdiivka as 'active defense', most likely due to the lack of any serious progress by Russia in the area, despite more than two months of large-scale Russian attacks there," the experts concluded.

If the Russian command were to recognize the actions of the Russian Armed Forces in the Avdiivka area as an offensive operation, it would have to achieve a clearly defined operational goal. But in the case of declaring what is happening as "active defense," Shoigu's department can claim "successes" of the occupation forces as long as they do not allow Ukrainian forces to achieve any significant success there. And this, ISW emphasizes, can go on for quite a long time, since the Defense Forces have not conducted and are not conducting counteroffensive operations in this area

"The Russian command's 'defensive' concept of the offensive efforts around Avdiivka, as well as localized offensive operations in other parts of eastern Ukraine, indicates that it lacks confidence in the ability of the Russian armed forces to turn tactical achievements into operationally significant successes," ISW believes.

In addition, Putin, who is up for re-election next spring, is concerned about the decline in support for Russia's full-scale aggression against Ukraine among the Russian population. That is why he deliberately downplays the scale of Russian operations in the eyes of Russians. Although, according to ISW, this approach of the command to Russian operations in Ukraine may cause discontent in the Russian information space.

Russia invented ''active defense of Avdiivka'' to hide the real situation - ISW

Earlier, ISW stated that Russian troops had intensified operations near Kreminna, and the Ukrainian Armed Forces had conducted attacks on the left bank of the Kherson region.

The analysts also noted that the number of Russians who fully support the war against Ukraine has almost halved. Experts believe that the war has exacerbated the existing tensions within Russia and created new social tensions that can be seen in its information space, despite the Kremlin's censorship efforts.

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