World, Russia-Ukraine War

Moscow plans to shift stance in Ukraine, says Russian military expert

Military expert Viktor Litovkin says Russia waiting for Ukraine to be ‘completely exhausted’ to go on the offensive

Elena Teslova  | 17.11.2023 - Update : 17.11.2023
Moscow plans to shift stance in Ukraine, says Russian military expert

• Military expert Viktor Litovkin says Russia waiting for Ukraine to be ‘completely exhausted’ to go on the offensive

• Gaza crisis will not divert US attention or resources from Ukraine, Litovkin tells Anadolu

• Even if US is busy supporting Israel, it can instruct other NATO allies to keep supporting Ukraine, says Litovkin


After 21 months of hostilities, Russia and Ukraine find themselves at a deadlock, a situation that Moscow is using to strengthen its position, according to a retired Russian colonel and military expert.

The current stalemate negatively affects Ukraine’s plans, while Russia is weighing it as an opportunity to shift to an offensive stance, Viktor Litovkin told Anadolu in an interview.

“The front line is stable for Russia, the command is waiting for the Ukrainian counteroffensive to be completely exhausted in order to go on the offensive,” he said.

Ukraine faces a particularly complex situation at the moment as Western support has notably dwindled in recent months, especially since the latest breakout of violence in the Palestine-Israel conflict.

Ukrainian media has also reported about escalating disagreements among the country’s civilian and military leadership.

On Nov. 2, Ukraine’s commander-in-chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi said there was a “stalemate” at the front line, acknowledging that Ukrainian forces were facing difficulties in advancing, including due to a lack of ammunition.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy did not agree with his assessments.

However, both Zelenskyy and Zaluzhnyi have spoken of a difficult situation, with the president naming areas around the cities of Avdiivka, Marinka, Bakhmut, Lyman, Kupiansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, while the military chief named three – Avdiivka, Kupiansk and Marinka.

According to Litovkin, there are various factors restraining Russian forces from going on the offense, including bad weather, with particularly heavy rains rendering many roads impassable.

They are waiting for drier conditions to deploy the necessary equipment for the upcoming attack, he said.

He said Ukraine currently lacks the means to sustain its offensive, which requires air supremacy and the capability to overcome intricate defenses and minefields.

On Nov. 4, Zelenskyy acknowledged challenges with arms deliveries, but reaffirmed Kyiv’s determination for a military victory.

He said the expected arrival of F-16 fighter jets from the US will shift the balance, adding that the aircraft deliveries will commence after trainings for Ukrainian pilots are wrapped up.

Just recently, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba confirmed that the EU will not be able to complete the planned delivery of 1 million artillery shells to Kyiv until March 2024.

Among the reasons, the officials cited capacity challenges with defense production in Europe, as well as bureaucratic obstacles.

The Middle East factor

In Litovkin’s assessment, the ongoing crisis in the Middle East has not affected the West’s support for Ukraine.

“The fact is that the conflict in Ukraine is between the US and Russia,” he said, adding that Washington’s primary objective is to “weaken Russia.”

For that, the US will support Ukraine “regardless of what is happening in Palestine, in Southeast Asia, or anywhere else,” he asserted.

He said Washington will sustain its support by providing weapons to bolster Ukraine’s defense, and pursue its plans to undermine the Russian economy and finances.

The expert rejected the idea that the Gaza crisis will divert US attention and resources from Ukraine.

“The US leads the bloc of NATO countries, many of which are among the richest in the world. So, even if the US is busy supporting Israel, they can instruct the remaining 30 countries to continue supporting Ukraine,” he argued.

Possibility of peace negotiations

Litovkin contended that despite the challenges on the ground, peace talks are unlikely, cautioning Russia against any such initiatives.

When the West proposes peace talks, their sole intention is to give Ukraine a chance to recover and regroup, he argued.

“Our leadership says that it is not against negotiations, but they should be on Russian terms,” he stressed.

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin said if Ukraine wants to start peace talks, it should start by repealing the law that bans any such dialogue.

Zelenskyy, for his part, has ruled out negotiations with Russia, asserting at a Nov. 4 conference after talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Kyiv that “there is no and there will be no such thing.”

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