Content Assessment: An Existential Threat? Russo-Ukrainian War Update (February 21 - 27, 2023)
Information - 94%
Insight - 93%
Relevance - 92%
Objectivity - 95%
Authority - 96%
A short percentage-based assessment of the qualitative benefit of the post highlighting the recent Ukraine conflict assessments in maps from the Institute for the Study of War.
Editor’s Note: The discipline of eDiscovery, which involves the identification, preservation, and analysis of electronic data, is increasingly being used in investigations and litigation relating to war crimes. In the case of the Russo-Ukrainian War, eDiscovery tools and techniques can be used to identify and collect electronic evidence of war crimes, such as emails, social media posts, and other digital communications that may provide valuable insights into the actions of individuals and organizations involved in the conflict. This evidence can then be used in investigations and legal proceedings to hold perpetrators of war crimes accountable for their actions. Additionally, eDiscovery can help to efficiently and effectively manage the vast amount of electronic evidence that may be relevant to war crimes cases, allowing investigators and legal teams to quickly and accurately analyze the data to identify key pieces of information. This weekly update may be useful for cybersecurity, information governance, and legal discovery professionals as they consider investigations and litigation resulting from war crimes committed during the war.
Background Note: One of the most accurate and detailed sources for ongoing updates on the Ukraine crisis is the Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment from the Institute for the Study of War. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a 501(c)(3) organization and produces strictly non-partisan, non-ideological, fact-based research. ISW seeks to promote an informed understanding of war and military affairs through comprehensive, independent, and accessible open-source research and analysis. ISW’s research is made available to the general public, military practitioners, policymakers, and media members. Providing a daily synthesis of key events related to the Russian aggression against Ukraine, ISW updates may benefit investigators and litigators as they follow the business, information technology, and legal trends and trajectories impacted by and stemming from the current Russo-Ukrainian conflict.
Assessment and Maps*
Russo-Ukrainian Conflict Assessments – An Overview in Maps
- Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russia Team
- Critical Threats Project (CTP), American Enterprise Institute
General Assessment Background Info
- ISW systematically publishes Russian campaign assessments that include maps highlighting the assessed control of terrain in Ukraine and main Russian maneuver axes.
- These maps augment daily synthetic products that cover key events related to renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine.
The Russian Offensive Campaign Assessments
- February 27, 2023
- By Karolina Hird, Grace Mappes, Nicole Wolkov, George Barros, Layne Philipson, and Frederick W. Kagan
- Russian officials are promoting an information operation that falsely frames Russia’s war in Ukraine as existential to the continued existence of the Russian Federation.
- Russian officials continue to conduct information operations in an attempt to discourage the Western provision of military aid to Ukraine.
- Ukrainian military officials continue to respond to Western concerns over Ukrainian capabilities and suggest that Ukrainian forces are preparing for a spring counteroffensive in southern Ukraine.
- A reportedly captured Russian military manual suggests that Russian forces are implementing new assault tactics to compensate for the current limitations on combat capability in light of continued offensive failures.
- The manual suggests that Russian forces are trying to adopt smaller and more agile combined arms formations than were employed earlier in the war.
- The tactics of the assault detachment additionally suggest that the Russian military may be attempting to institutionalize tactics used to marginal tactical effect by the Wagner Group in Bakhmut.
- US Central Intelligence Director William Burns stated on February 25 that the CIA is confident that Chinese leadership is considering the provision of lethal equipment to Russia but has not made a final decision or provided lethal aid to Russia.
- Ukrainian officials stated that Russian forces have been concentrating and escalating operations along the Luhansk Oblast front line.
- Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks northwest of Svatove and near Kreminna.
- Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks across the Donetsk Oblast front line, and Russian sources widely claimed that Wagner Group forces made territorial gains north of Bakhmut.
- Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces continue to focus on establishing defensive fortifications in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast and Crimea.
- Russian forces are continuing to expend their already limited stocks of precision munitions.
- Russian officials announced that all social support measures will enter into force in occupied territories on March 1.
- February 26, 2023
- By Kateryna Stepanenko and Frederick W. Kagan
- Putin’s clear efforts to prepare the Russian people for a protracted and painful war suggest that he has realized that only the Russian MoD can actually sustain the large mechanized forces he needs to have any hope of achieving his ambitions in Ukraine.
- Deputy Head of the Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Vadym Skibitsky stated that Ukrainian forces will be ready for a counteroffensive this upcoming spring and that one of Ukraine’s strategic goals will be to drive a wedge into the Russian front in southern Ukraine between Crimea and the Russian mainland.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin falsely stated that the West is trying to break up the Russian Federation and suggested that Western security assistance to Ukraine makes the West a participant in the war. Putin leaned on a longstanding rhetorical line of effort for raising domestic support for the war by falsely claiming that the West is threatening the survival of the Russian people as a unified ethnic group.
- Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated that the types of systems that the West provides to Ukraine will determine how far Russian forces need to push threats away from Russia’s borders, likely in support of an ongoing Russian information operation aimed at discouraging the Western provision of specific systems to Ukraine.
- US Central Intelligence Director William Burns stated on February 25 that the CIA is confident that Chinese leadership is considering the provision of lethal equipment to Russia but has not made a final decision.
- Russian forces continued to conduct unsuccessful operations northwest of Svatove and near Kreminna.
- February 25, 2023
- By Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, Kateryna Stepanenko, Nicole Wolkov, and Frederick W. Kagan
- UK, French, and German officials are reportedly preparing a NATO-Ukraine pact that falls far short of the protections Ukraine would receive from NATO membership and appears to reflect a desire to press Ukraine to accept a negotiated settlement on unfavorable terms.
- Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko plans to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, possibly to assist Russia and China in sanctions evasion amidst reports that China is seriously considering sending Russia lethal aid.
- US President Joe Biden rejected China’s 12-point peace plan as Russian sources continue to capitalize on the announcement of the plan to vilify the West and Ukraine.
- Lukashenko breathed new life into the Kremlin’s Transnistria information operation by falsely claiming that opening a Transnistrian front would be in the West’s interests.
- Russian authorities detained more than 50 people at anti-war demonstrations in 14 Russian cities on February 24.
- Wagner Group Financier Yevgeny Prigozhin and his supporters criticized Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu over his son-in-law Alexei Stolyarov’s alleged Instagram “likes” of anti-war posts.
- Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks northwest of Svatove and near Kreminna.
- Russian forces made marginal territorial gains around Bakhmut and Avdiivka and continued to conduct ground attacks across the Donetsk Oblast front line.
- Russian forces continue to struggle to conduct effective combat operations on the Zaporizhia Oblast front line.
- Russian forces are continuing to suffer significant losses on the battlefield prompting some milbloggers to criticize the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) for failing to recognize the scale of the casualties.
- Russian authorities are exploiting Ukrainian children from Mariupol as propaganda to falsely portray Russia as the savior of occupied areas.
- February 24, 2023
- By Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, Layne Philipson, Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan
- The Kremlin did not comment on the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, likely because Russia has failed to achieve any of its stated objectives and has not made significant territorial gains since July 2022.
- A Russian source capitalized on China’s release of a 12-point peace plan to inaccurately portray China as supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine.
- US intelligence reportedly continues to assess that China is seriously considering sending lethal aid to Russia amid continued pressure from Western sanctions regimes on Russia’s defense industrial base.
- Western governments made a variety of statements on the provision of military aid to Ukraine on February 24.
- The Kremlin escalated its information condition-setting for a possible false-flag operation in occupied Transnistria, Moldova.
- Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks northwest of Svatove and near Kreminna.
- Russian sources confirmed that Russian forces have split certain Airborne (VDV) force formations across at least two axes of advance.
- Russian forces made marginal territorial gains around Bakhmut and continued to conduct ground attacks across the Donetsk Oblast front line.
- Ukrainian officials suggested that Russian forces may feel insecure in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast.
- Russian authorities continue measures to expand the capacity of Russian peacekeepers.
- Russian sources likely attempted to shift the blame for scandals associated with Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) commanders to the conventional Russian military.
- Ukrainian partisans likely blew up a railway segment near Poshtove, Crimea.
- February 23, 2023
- By Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, Nicole Wolkov, Karolina Hird, Kateryna Stepanenko, and Frederick W. Kagan
- The Kremlin appears to be setting conditions for false flag operations in Chernihiv Oblast and Moldova ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to deliver boilerplate rhetoric in public events that present him opportunities to shape the Russian information space ahead of the year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- Putin likely attempted to downplay recent surges of criticism regarding the integration of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR/LNR) into the Russian Armed Forces.
- Putin seems more concerned with appealing to ultranationalist pro-war ideologues with meaningless gestures than with presenting any new approach to achieving the Kremlin’s objectives in Ukraine.
- Putin likely continues to suffer from confirmation bias in his belief that Russia’s will to fight will outlast the West’s will to support Ukraine.
- A Russian source attempted to preempt Western discussions of releasing classified information regarding China’s considerations to provide lethal aid to Russia.
- Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin announced that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) fulfilled Wagner Group’s complete artillery ammunition request on February 23 following immense support for Prigozhin in the Russian information space.
- Russian forces conducted ground attacks near Svatove and Kreminna.
- Russian forces continued ground attacks around Bakhmut, in the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area, and in western Donetsk Oblast.
- Russian authorities announced that they completed the repair of the Kerch Strait Bridge road spans ahead of schedule.
- Russian officials continue to offer incremental and insufficient benefits to support Russian military personnel and defense manufacturers.
- Russian occupation officials continue efforts to militarize Ukrainian children through the installation of military-patriotic educational programs in occupied areas.
- February 22, 2023
- By Kateryna Stepanenko, Grace Mappes, Nicole Wolkov, and Frederick W. Kagan
- Russian President Vladimir Putin revived his imperialistic narrative that Russia is fighting for Russia’s “historic frontiers” on February 22, a narrative that he had similarly voiced in his speech before the re-invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
- Putin’s speech also followed his February 21 decree revoking his May 2012 edict on Russia’s position toward Moldovan territorial integrity.
- Ukrainian intelligence officials continue to assess that Russia lacks the combat power and resources necessary to sustain its new offensive operations in Ukraine.
- Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin directly accused the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) of mistreating Wagner forces, igniting intense backlash in the information space and supporting ISW’s prior assessments of a growing Wagner-MoD fissure.
- US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price stated that the US government is concerned about the potential strengthening of Russia-China relations.
- Russian forces are likely attempting to increase the tempo of their offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Lyman line.
- Some Russian sources refuted other Russian claims about the intensification of offensive operations in western Luhansk Oblast.
- Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks throughout the Donetsk Oblast front line and secured marginal territorial gains around Bakhmut.
- Russian and occupation authorities continue to publicly indicate that Russian forces are focusing on defensive operations in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast and Crimea.
- US intelligence officials stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin may mobilize significantly more Russian personnel.
- February 21, 2023
- By Karolina Hird, Grace Mappes, George Barros, Nicole Wolkov, Angela Howard, and Frederick W. Kagan
- Russian President Vladimir Putin’s February 21 address to the Russian Federal Assembly did not articulate specific goals or intentions for the war in Ukraine, instead reinforcing several long-standing rhetorical lines in an effort to buy Putin more space and time for a protracted war.
- Putin’s announcement of Russia’s suspension of participation in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) captured more attention than the relatively boilerplate content of the rest of the speech.
- US President Joe Biden gave a speech in Warsaw, Poland on February 21 to reaffirm US and NATO support for Ukraine after his trip to Kyiv.
- Many Russian milbloggers condemned Putin’s failure to use his speech to forward new war aims, outline new measures to support the war, or hold Russian authorities accountable for their many military failures.
- International journalists reportedly obtained the Kremlin’s classified 2021 strategy document on restoring Russian suzerainty over Belarus through the Union State by 2030.
- Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office Director Wang Yi met in Moscow on February 21 on deepening Sino–Russan cooperation.
- The Financial Times (FT) reported that Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s international companies continue to garner hundreds of millions of dollars in profits despite long-standing Western sanctions.
- Russian forces continued to conduct limited ground attacks northwest of Svatove and near Kreminna. Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted a limited counterattack near Kreminna.
- Russian forces continued making incremental tactical gains in and around Bakhmut and continued ground attacks near Avdiivka.
- Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces continue to reinforce and build fortifications in rear areas in southern Ukraine.
- The Kremlin may be directing patronage programs between Russian regions and occupied Ukrainian territory to promote socio-economic recovery and infrastructure development.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin further expanded unrealistic promises of benefits for Russian soldiers in his address to the Russian Federal Assembly.
We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.
Chronology of Maps from February 21 – 27, 2023 – Mouseover to ScrollUkraine Conflict Maps - 022123 - 022723
See the Institute for the Study of War Interactive Map of the Russian Invasion
Read the latest Ukraine Conflict updates from the Institute for the Study of War
* Shared with direct express permission from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
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