The Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, held a press conference on February 7 to provide updates on the war and to create an image of an effective and involved leadership in the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD).
Shoigu claimed that Russian troops have recently taken control of several areas in Bakhmut and Zaporizhia Oblast. However, experts have warned that the Russian military may be rushing into a large-scale operation without sufficient combat power.
The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) has assessed that Russia has been trying to launch a major offensive in the Donetsk Oblast since early January 2023, but due to munitions shortages and a lack of maneuver units, their progress has been slow. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has similarly warned that Russian leadership may be planning a decisive offensive based on erroneous assumptions about Russian military capabilities, and may lack the combat power necessary to sustain a large-scale operation.
In the Russian nationalist information space, there is growing concern over the country’s ability to carry out a rapid and multi-pronged offensive. Some experts have warned that Russian forces should focus on gradual advances to tire Ukrainian forces, rather than conducting a frontal assault.
Gazprom, the Russian state energy company, may be creating its own private security force, which could be used for purposes other than protecting Russian energy assets. The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate has reported that Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin privately authorized Gazprom to establish its own security company.
The Kremlin is also considering implementing demands voiced by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the financier of the Wagner Group PMC, to build rapport with nationalist figures. The Head of the Russian State Duma Committee on Security and Anti-Corruption is reportedly preparing amendments to the Russian Criminal Code to include provisions against discrediting individuals who participated in combat operations and volunteer detachments that assist the Russian Armed Forces during the war in Ukraine. Additionally, Gazprom Media is reportedly planning to ban its media outlets from publishing content on YouTube, which could be connected to Prigozhin’s efforts to block YouTube in Russia.
The Russian State Duma has also formalized social benefit schemes in occupied territories of Ukraine to further consolidate administrative control. These actions demonstrate the Russian government’s efforts to establish control and legitimacy in occupied areas, despite the ongoing conflict.
Article written based on information from ISW, understandingwar.org