Russian forces scramble for Ukraine territory before US weapons arrive

Russian forces are likely scrambling to seize territory in Ukraine before Kyiv receives a fresh batch of weapons from the U.S., a think tank has said.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) a U.S.-based think tank, made the assessment in its latest analysis of the conflict in Ukraine on Thursday. Washington said on Thursday that Kyiv will receive the first weapons under the recently announced $60 billion military aid bill “in a matter of days.”

A Ukrainian serviceman of the State Border Guard Service digs a trench in Chasiv Yar near the frontline city of Bakhmut, Donetsk region on May 3, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russian forces…


Two U.S. officials also told Reuters on the condition of anonymity on Tuesday that Washington is preparing a $1 billion military aid package for Ukraine that would include vehicles, Stinger air defense munitions, additional ammunition for high-mobility artillery rocket systems, 155 millimeter artillery ammunition, TOW and Javelin anti-tank munitions and other weapons.

“Russian forces are likely attempting to seize as much territory as possible before the arrival of U.S. security assistance significantly improves Ukrainian defensive capabilities in the coming weeks,” the ISW said.

The Russian military may also be intensifying its offensive operations northwest of the war-torn town of Avdiivka in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region “because the area provides greater opportunities for making more rapid tactical gains despite the relative operational insignificance of those gains,” the think tank said.

Newsweek has contacted Russia’s defense ministry for comment by email.

The ISW said Russia’s forces are making marginal, tactical gains beyond Avdiivka, advancing near to their reported operational objective of Pokrovsk, a major logistical hub for Ukraine’s army in Donetsk. Moscow is also ramping up pressure on the city of Chasiv Yar, the think tank said.

Pokrovsk, which had a pre-war population of around 60,000 people, is located about 70 km (43 miles) northwest of the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk. It lies at the intersection of several railways and roads, making it a major player in Ukrainian logistics.

Pokrovsk has been targeted by missile strikes on numerous occasions since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Elina Beketova, of the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C., previously told Newsweek that Russian forces could set their sights on Pokrovsk, Selidove, or Chasiv Yar in the region.

“It’s likely that Russian soldiers will target settlements adjacent to the occupied city to test the capabilities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and further advance in the Donetsk region,” she said.

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Mark Cancian previously told Newsweek that while Pokrovsk is indeed a major logistics hub, it’s a long way from Avdiivka.

“Ukraine lost about 10km of territory when it retreated from Avdiivka, a city that the Russians had mostly surrounded,” said Cancian. “To get to Pokrovsk, the Russians will need to push five times further. This is more territory than they have captured since March 2022.”

The ISW said that Russia’s current offensive to seize Chasiv Yar is more significant as it “offers Russian forces the most immediate prospects for operationally significant advances” as its capture “would likely allow Russian forces to launch subsequent offensive operations against cities that form a significant Ukrainian defensive belt in Donetsk Oblast.”

The think tank added: “Russian forces do pose a credible threat of seizing Chasiv Yar, although they may not be able to do so rapidly.”

Do you have a tip on a world news story that Newsweek should be covering? Do you have a question about the Russia-Ukraine war? Let us know via