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Russia's new war plan is to occupy more Ukrainian territory by 2026, report says

Alia Shoaib   

Russia's new war plan is to occupy more Ukrainian territory by 2026, report says
  • Russia plans to occupy large swaths of Ukrainian territory by 2026, Bild reported.
  • Russia illegally annexed four Ukrainian oblasts after invading Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia has a new plan for the war in Ukraine — and it involves occupying large expanses of territory between 2024 and 2026, German outlet Bild reported.

In September 2022, Russia annexed parts of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia oblasts in Ukraine, in a move not recognized by the international community.

As part of its new plan, Russia plans to occupy the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, and to advance to the Oskil River in Kharkiv oblast by the end of 2024, Bild reported, citing unspecified intelligence.

The next step of the plan, over 2025 and 2026, will be to take over large parts of the Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro, and Kharkiv region, Bild reported.

Commenting on the Bild report, the think tank the Institute for the Study of War said: "ISW cannot 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 south of Ukraine is no longer a priority for Russia, despite the Kherson region having been occupied in the first year of the war, and Russia now only wants to stop Ukrainian forces from advancing towards Crimea, the intelligence said.

Bild said a source with inside information told the publication that Russia planned to occupy the entire eastern areas to the left of the Dnipro River within 36 months."

"The river is then the new front," they said, per Bild.

The river has become the center of the war in recent months, with Ukraine conducting counteroffensive operations and establishing a bridgehead on the eastern bank.

Russia's preparations, such as its growing defense budget, also suggest that it is preparing for a long war, the think tank the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace wrote in a report.

Russia's plans rely on a few assumptions, including that the Russian war economy continues to grow and become more effective, that 100,000 Ukrainian troops are killed per year, and that the 2024 US presidential election brings in a new leader that will reduce support for Ukraine, Bild reported.

The outcome of the 2024 election, which will likely see incumbent President Joe Biden running against Republican front-runner Donald Trump, could be crucial in determining the fate of the war in Ukraine.

Senate Republicans have been delaying the approval of the Biden administration's latest proposed aid package to Ukraine, seeking proof that increased aid would help Ukraine achieve victory and also asking for increased border security spending as a concession.

Much of Ukraine's success in holding off a total Russian takeover has been due to Western support. The US has been the main provider of military aid to Ukraine, supplying billions of dollars worth of weapons and training.