Russia is “unlikely to make operationally significant advances” in the nearest months, the U.K. Defense Ministry said on Dec. 12, with Russian troops forced into defensive positions in eastern and southern Ukraine after facing major battlefield defeats.
In its daily intelligence briefing, the ministry said that Russia is “highly unlikely to achieve its objectives” with its current strategy that limits its ability gather enough forces to break through Ukraine’s defense in the four regions it envisions capturing.
“It is highly unlikely that the Russian military is currently able to generate an effective striking force capable of retaking these areas (in eastern and southern Ukraine),” the ministry said.
The intelligence report comes a few days after Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov claimed that Russia is still set on fully capturing four partially occupied Ukrainian regions despite being embarrassingly pushed out of key strongholds by Ukrainian counteroffensives.
Since Ukraine’s military launched its southern counteroffensive in late August and another surprise operation nearly two weeks later in the country’s northeast, Russian occupied territories have shrunk by 74,443 square kilometers, according to the Institute for the Study of War.
Speaking at a briefing on Dec. 8, Peskov admitted that “a lot of work” needs to be done to retake Ukrainian-controlled territories of the four regions Russia illegally claimed as “its own” in September.
The U.K. Defense Ministry also said in its Dec. 12 report that “Peskov’s comments suggest that Russia’s current minimum political objectives of the war remain unchanged.”
The briefing added that “Russian military planners likely still aim to prioritize advancing deeper into Donetsk Oblast.”
Ukraine's eastern Donetsk Oblast, particularly in the Bakhmut sector, is the location of the fiercest fighting of the war, with both sides suffering high casualties. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly stressed the severity of the war of attrition unfolding in the Donbas region and said on Dec. 9 that Bakhmut is “effectively destroyed” due to the months-long shelling.