Institute for the Study of War:  Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, May 9

May 9, 2022

FULL ARTICLE

Russian forces continue to face widespread force generation challenges. A senior US defense official stated on May 9 that the US has not observed any indicators of a “new major Russian mobilization” and that members of the private military company Wagner Group “urgently” requested hundreds of thousands of additional troops to reinforce Russian efforts in Donbas.[1] The official noted that Russia currently has 97 battalion tactical groups (BTGs) in Ukraine, but that BTGs have been moving in and out of Ukraine to refit and resupply, suggesting that Russian troops continue to sustain substantial damage in combat.[2] ISW has previously assessed that most Russian BTGs are heavily degraded and counting BTGs is not a useful metric of Russian combat power.[3] The Main Ukrainian Intelligence Directorate (GUR) claimed that under-trained, ill-equipped Russian conscripts are still being sent into active combat despite the Kremlin denying this practice.[4] A prisoner of war from the BARS-7 detachment of the Wagner Group claimed that a ”covert mobilization” is underway in Russian to send conscripts to clean damage caused by combat in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.[5]

Russian troops in Ukraine continue to display low morale and poor discipline as fighting in many areas has stalled out against Ukrainian resistance. A senior US defense official claimed that Russian troops in Donbas are failing to obey orders from top generals.[6] Russian forces deployed to the Zaporizhzhia area reportedly are experiencing very low morale and psychological conditions, complain about the ineffectiveness of operations in the area, frequently abuse alcohol, and shoot at their own vehicles in order to avoid going to the frontline.[7] This is consistent with reports made by the Ukrainian General Staff that the extent of Russian losses is having widespread impacts on the willingness of Russian troops to engage in offensive operations.[8]

Russian authorities are likely setting conditions to integrate occupied Ukrainian territories directly into Russia, as opposed to creating proxy “People’s Republics.” The Kherson occupation Deputy Chairman of Military Civil Administration Kirill Stremousov stated on May 9 that the Kherson region intends to become part of Russia and that Kherson authorities do not intend to hold a referendum to create an independent republic.[9] Spokesperson for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry Oleksandr Motuzyanyk reported that Russian occupation authorities are intensifying reconnaissance measures and increasing checkpoints and patrols in occupied areas in order to prepare to integrate these regions directly into Russia.[10] Motuzyanyk noted that Russian and Crimean groups have been arriving to occupied regions to intensify propaganda measures to prepare for integration. ISW will publish our assessment of the Kremlin’s most likely course of actions towards their occupied territories in Ukraine in the coming days.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces did not make any confirmed advances to the southeast or southwest of Izyum on May 9 but are likely attempting to concentrate the forces necessary to resume offensive operations in the coming days.

  • Russian forces made marginal gains around Severodonetsk in the past 24 hours.

  • Russian forces are likely continuing to amass troops in Belgorod Oblast to stop Ukrainian counterattacks around Kharkiv City from reaching the Ukrainian-Russian border.

  • Russian units in Zaporizhia Oblast are regrouping and will likely receive reinforcements from forces previously deployed in Mariupol.

  • The Kremlin continues to face severe force mobilization challenges, and ongoing “covert mobilization” efforts are unlikely to generate substantial combat power.

  • Russian authorities are likely setting conditions to integrate occupied Ukrainian territories directly into Russia, as opposed to creating proxy “People’s Republics.”