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Euromaidan Press
16 Dec 2023
Alya Shandra

Bild publishes Russian war plan to seize eastern Ukraine by 2026. ISW, Ukrainian intel react

Bild reports that, according to intelligence sources, the Kremlin intends to feign interest in negotiations while continuing its offensive operations through 2026.
BILD map Russian offensive plan
Map by Bild

Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to occupy Ukrainian territory beyond the four illegally annexed Ukrainian regions through 2024-2026, according to an analysis by German newspaper Bild. 

The outlet reports that Russia intends to fully capture the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and reach the Oskil River in Kharkiv Oblast by the end of 2024. 

Bild adds that Russian forces also aim to seize significant parts of Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, and Kharkiv Oblasts, including the city of Kharkiv, by 2025 and 2026. Citing an anonymous source, the paper reports that Russia plans to occupy much of eastern Ukraine east of the Dnipro River over the next 36 months.

Map: Bild

The source says Russia intends to maintain the current front line in Kherson along the Dnipro, concerned only with preventing Ukrainian advances from southern Ukraine toward Russian-occupied Crimea. 

“Russia’s plans are predicated on mobilizing the Russian defense industrial base, sustaining approximately 100,000 casualties per year during grueling offensive operations, and benefiting from potential 2024 US presidential elections that sharply reduce or halt US military support for Ukraine,” the article states.

A source familiar with the intelligence told the outlet that the Kremlin is counting on “fictitious negotiations” while continuing offensive operations. The article references the 2015 Minsk Agreements amid indications Putin plans second such talks, yet will still wage war on Ukraine.

Institute for Study of War and Ukrainian Intelligence react

ISW analysts note Bild previously published fairly accurate intelligence on Russia’s plans for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in December 2021, forecasting Russia would attack from Crimea and the north in late January or early February 2022, although Russia’s plan did not not fully materialize.

The ISW says that Russia’s purported war plans through 2026 align with the Kremlin’s ongoing efforts to expand and restructure its military for a prolonged conflict, as well as with Russia’s current offensive operations in the Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv oblasts.

The Institute notes that recent rhetoric from Russian officials hints at intentions to occupy additional Ukrainian territory, and Russian forces continue offensive operations beyond the four illegally annexed oblasts. It also believes a sudden halt in Western military aid would likely precipitate Ukraine’s defensive collapse, enabling Russian troops to potentially advance to the western border. Still, Russia currently lacks the resources to sustain major offensive gains.

In response to the report, Ukrainian military intelligence representative Andriy Chernyak confirmed to the occupiers’ intentions to advance further on the frontlines but said Russia lacks the necessary military resources to do so. .

However, head of the Main Intelligence Directorate Kyrylo Budanov said that Russia has no plans to wage war against Ukraine in 2025.

“I can only tell you one thing: Russia has no plans to wage war in 2025 as of now. They also have problems. It’s not only about public sentiment, but also about resources. Because this war is very expensive. And the resources are unlimited. It may sound a bit rude, but we are fighting for someone else’s money, and they are fighting for theirs. And they count their money, although it seems that they don’t. And very meticulously,” the intelligence officer emphasized.