The fighting in the war in Ukraine is at its worst in the Donbas region, in the east of the country.
The fighting is ongoing without Russia making significant progress, according to intelligence from Ukraine and Britain.
On Sunday, British intelligence reports that it appears that the Russians are suffering heavy losses: The Russian troops have lost momentum and are “significantly behind schedule”.
– Despite small progress initially, Russia has not managed to gain significant ground in the last month, at the same time the persistent wear and tear is great, it says in the analysis from the British Ministry of Defense.
A few weeks ago, Russia announced an offensive in the east, but it does not seem to have taken off, says Lieutenant Colonel Palle Ydstebø.
– Russia has not managed to make significant progress, only small gains and large losses. They have not managed to tear down the Ukrainian forces. Ukraine also has losses, but they manage to keep going. They have their reserves intact, he says.
– The offensive to Russia loses its power. You also risk that the initiative passes to the Ukrainians, continues Ydstebø, who is head of the section for land power at the war school.
The next 30 days
According to British intelligence, Russia has probably lost a third of the ground forces sent into the country in February.
In addition, they have a significant shortage of equipment, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance drones, according to the British.
Under the current conditions, it is unlikely that Russia will escalate its progress dramatically in the next 30 days, the analysis states.
Ydstebø says that the Russians had to move forces from Kyiv to the Donbas when they launched what Russia described as an offensive a few weeks ago.
– They have not built up the type of combined combat units needed to make an offensive go, but the Ukrainians have been better at running a mobile and active defense, in addition to keeping the old trenches from 2015, Ydstebø explains and continues :
In that way, they have denied the Russians significant progress. They themselves have been able to carry out counter-attacks in Kharkiv, and now they report that they have an offensive going against Izyum, a major Russian gathering of forces, he says.
Ukraine’s major general told Sky News on Saturday that he believes they can win the war before the end of the year. He also said he thinks they can reach a breakthrough in August.
Ydstebø says that it is difficult to say what may happen next in the war.
– War is very unpredictable, and the only thing that is certain is the uncertainty, he says.
He explains that the war plays on factors that are in themselves very unpredictable.
What is certain, however, is that what is happening on the battlefield now is affected by what lies behind.
Very strict sanctions have been imposed on Russia, and this is beginning to be seen on the battlefield, he says.
– Russia is under a sanctions regime that works more and more the more time passes, and Ukraine has the entire western economy and war industry behind it, and it will work more and more the more time passes, Ydstebø says.
– This may be a new turning point. There are battles of the strategic initiative in the Donbas now, but when it is decided in a way that Ukraine can accept, it can take a very long time, he continues.
– At best speed bumps
Finland confirmed on Sunday that they are applying for NATO membership, and it is expected that Sweden will do the same next week.
Russia believes it is a mistake for the neighboring country to become part of the defense alliance and has warned of “political reactions”.
Ydstebø does not think the Russians will impose military sanctions, because they have little capacity to do so, as most of the resources are tied up in the war in Ukraine.
– But other things can probably come, such as cyber attacks. An example is that they cut the power to Finland. I do not think they will make any existential threats, but at best some speed bumps on the road, says the lieutenant colonel.
Can get worse
Former Foreign Minister for eight years and now chair of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the Storting, Ine Merete Søreide, believes there are two things that can happen in the future.
– One is that it can be much worse, where brutality can increase. This means that the Russians are starting to run out of some of their precision weapons. This means that they use old weapon systems with much less precision and which destroy more, and this can lead to more civilian losses, says Søreide and continues:
– The second is that we must be prepared for it to be long-lasting. Now we are almost back to where the war started, when it escalated 81 days ago. The Russians have been waging war there for eight years already after the annexation of Crimea.
The advantage to Ukraine is that they have gained a lot of experience in waging the type of war that the Russians have inflicted on them for eight years, at the same time as that long-term perspective will be an extreme challenge for the Ukrainians, says Søreide.