ISW analyzes Bild's article on Russia's plans to occupy Ukraine by end of 2026

ISW analyzes Bild's article on Russia's plans to occupy Ukraine by end of 2026

German news outlet Bild published an article on December 14 that unspecified intelligence findings and sources indicate that Russia plans to occupy Ukrainian territory beyond the four illegally annexed Ukrainian regions throughout 2024-2026.

That's according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Ukrinform reports.

Bild stated that Russia plans to capture the entirety of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and up to the Oskil River in the Kharkiv region by the end of 2024.

ISW analysts noted that these reported goals are in line with ongoing localized Russian offensive operations in the three regions, although they did not confirm the authenticity of Bild's reports.

Russia also reportedly plans to take large parts of the Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, and Kharkiv regions, including Kharkiv City if possible, in 2025 and 2026, as well as large parts of eastern Ukraine located east of the Dnipro River within the next 36 months. The aggressor country is reportedly planning to hold the current front line in the Kherson region along the Dnipro River and is only concerned about preventing Ukrainian forces in southern Ukraine from advancing towards occupied Crimea, according to Bild.

ISW said it could not independently authenticate BILD's reporting, but Russia's reported plans for the war in Ukraine through 2026 are in line with continued Russian preparations for a prolonged war effort. The Russian military command is pursuing long-term restructuring and expansion efforts to form strategic reserves, and Russia has been gradually mobilizing its defense industrial base to sustain a long war.

"Russia's reported medium to long-term plans to occupy territory beyond the four (illegally) annexed territories are also plausible considering that Russian officials, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, have reverted to expansionist rhetoric recently, and Russian forces continue offensive operations to expand their positions in the Kharkiv region," ISW experts concluded.

Kyrylo Budanov, the chief of Ukraine's defense intelligence, said earlier that the Russian economy in wartime would hold only until 2025.

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