• Associated Press

Analysts Say Ukraine’s Forces are Pivoting to Defense after Russia Held off Their Counteroffensive

AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka
Motorcycle riders with Ukrainian and Ukrainian insurgent army flags pass in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023.

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s armed forces are taking up a more defensive posture, a military analysis said Wednesday, after their summer counteroffensive failed to achieve a major breakthrough against Russia’s army and as winter weather sets in after almost 22 months of the war.

“In recent weeks, Ukraine has mobilized a concerted effort to improve field fortifications as its forces pivot to a more defensive posture along much of the front line,” the U.K. Ministry of Defense said in an assessment.

The Kremlin’s deep defenses held firm against Ukraine’s monthslong assault, which employed Western-supplied weapons but did not have essential air cover along the front line that extends for around 1,000-kilometers (600 miles).

Most fighting in recent weeks has focused on artillery, missile and drone strikes as mud and snow hinder troop movements.

“Russia continues local offensive options in several sectors, but individual attacks are rarely above platoon size,” the U.K. analysis said. “A major Russian breakthrough is unlikely and overall, the front is characterized by stasis.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin is hopeful that Kyiv’s Western allies will grow weary of financing the costly Ukrainian war effort, allowing the Kremlin’s forces to make a new offensive push next year against a weaker foe. He has put the Russian economy on a war footing to prepare for that.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday that he’s certain the United States will make good on its promise to provide billions of dollars in further aid for Kyiv to continue its fight. The U.S. Congress has broken for vacation without a deal to send around $61 billion to Ukraine.

Zelenskyy also noted that next year Ukraine plans to produce 1 million drones, which have become a key battlefield weapon. The relatively cheap drones can be used to destroy expensive military hardware.

Oleksandr Kamyshin, Ukraine’s Minister of Strategic Industries, said the million new drones will be so-called first-person view, or FPV, drones, which have a real time video function.

In addition, he said in a Telegram post, Ukraine can manufacture next year more than 10,000 mid-range strike drones that can travel hundreds of kilometers (miles) as well as more than 1,000 drones with a range of more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles). They will allow Ukraine to hit targets well behind the front line and in Russia.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian air defenses intercepted 18 of 19 Russian Shahed-type drones overnight, the Ukraine air force claimed Wednesday.

Moscow also fired two S-300 ballistic missiles at Kharkiv in the northeast of Ukraine, the air force said. No casualties were reported.

In Russia, air defenses shot down a drone in the country’s western Belgorod region, the Russian Defense Ministry said. It also reported no casualties.