UA-69458566-1

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Iran Update, February 25, 2024

Andie Parry, Peter Mills, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET 

The Iran Update provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. It also covers events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. The Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provides these updates regularly based on regional events. For more on developments in Iran and the region, see our interactive map of Iran and the Middle East.

Note: CTP and ISW have refocused the update to cover the Israel-Hamas war. The new sections address developments in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria, as well as noteworthy activity from Iran’s Axis of Resistance. We do not report in detail on war crimes because these activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We utterly condemn violations of the laws of armed conflict and the Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

Click here to see CTP and ISW’s interactive map of Israeli ground operations. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report. Click here to subscribe to the Iran Update.

Key Takeaways:

  • Northern Gaza Strip: The Israel Defense Forces continued clearing operations in Zaytoun neighborhood, southeastern Gaza City.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: The Israel Defense Forces has continued to conduct clearing operations in western and eastern Khan Younis.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian fighters at least six times in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Yemen: The USS Mason intercepted a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile targeting US-flagged, owned, and operated oil tanker MV Torm Thor.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to launch and sustain a major ground operation into the Gaza Strip
  • Degrade IDF material and morale around the Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continued clearing operations in Zaytoun neighborhood, southeastern Gaza City, on February 25. The IDF Nahal Brigade (assigned to the 162nd Division) targeted Palestinian fighters, destroyed rocket launch sites, and located weapons during clearing operations in Zaytoun.[1] IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi held a situational assessment meeting in the northern Gaza Strip with the commanders of Southern Command and the 162nd Division.[2] Halevi stated that Israeli forces are returning to previously cleared areas in the northern Gaza Strip “based on better intelligence“ to ”deepen achievements“ against Hamas.[3]

Palestinian militias continued to operate in Gaza City on February 25. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fired rockets at an Israeli position east of Jabalia’s eastern cemetery.[4] The IDF 143rd Division directed an airstrike on a Palestinian squad operating a drone in Shati in northwestern Gaza City.[5] The 162nd Division completed a second round of clearing operations in al Shati refugee camp on February 15.[6] PIJ directed sniper fire targeting Israeli forces operating near al Dawla roundabout in Zaytoun.[7] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah and aligned with Hamas in the war, fired rockets at Israeli forces south of Zaytoun.[8]

The IDF has continued to conduct clearing operations in western and eastern Khan Younis. The IDF Givati Brigade (assigned to the 162nd Division) has operated in Abasan al Kabira and Abasan al Saghira in recent days.[9] The brigade seized a long-range rocket and launcher in a "medical laboratory" in the Abasan area, likely the Algerian Specialized Hospital in Abasan al Kabira.[10] The IDF‘s acknowledgement of its activity in the Abasan al Kabira area is consistent with local Palestinian reports of IDF activity on February 19-20.[11] The IDF 7th Armored Brigade (assigned to the 36th Division) detained Palestinian fighters hiding among and evacuating with civilians in western Khan Younis on February 25.[12] The brigade also killed several Palestinian fighters and seized weapons.[13] IDF 98th Division forces killed a Palestinian drone squad in Khan Younis.[14]

The IDF announced on February 25 that its 98th Division commando forces ceased operations at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis.[15] Israeli forces detained over 200 individuals and seized weapons from the hospital.[16] The IDF said it brought multiple rounds of humanitarian aid and a generator to the hospital during its operations.[17] The IDF said it will continue to abide by international law when operating in hospitals in the Gaza Strip.[18]

Israeli media reported that the Israeli War Cabinet approved a measure allowing the direct flow of humanitarian aid into northern Gaza Strip on February 24. Channel 12 stated humanitarian aid will begin directly entering the northern Gaza Strip “in the next few days.”[19] Aid currently enters the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing at the southern end of the Gaza Strip and must travel near active fighting in Khan Younis and Zaytoun. Several humanitarian organizations have halted transporting aid to the northern Gaza Strip in the past week, citing security concerns.[20]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward the West Bank and fix them there

Israeli forces have clashed with Palestinian fighters at least six times in the West Bank on February 25.[21]

This map is not an exhaustive depiction of clashes and demonstrations in the West Bank.

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward northern Israel and fix them there
  • Set conditions for successive campaigns into northern Israel

Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on February 24.[22]

Recorded reports of attacks; CTP-ISW cannot independently verify impact.

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Demonstrate the capability and willingness of Iran and the Axis of Resistance to escalate against the United States and Israel on multiple fronts
  • Set conditions to fight a regional war on multiple fronts

The USS Mason intercepted a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile targeting US-flagged, owned, and operated oil tanker MV Torm Thor on February 24.[23] CENTCOM reported that neither the USS Mason nor the MV Torm Thor were damaged in the Houthi attack.[24]

The United States and United Kingdom conducted 18 airstrikes targeting Houthi underground missile storage facilities, one-way attack drones, radars, air defense systems, and a helicopter in Houthi-controlled Yemen on February 24.[25]


[1] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1761643947200237727 ; https://twitter.com/AvichayAdraee/status/1761710509437460881

[2] https://twitter.com/IDFSpokesperson/status/1761461996849930578

[3] https://twitter.com/AvichayAdraee/status/1761466991100002401

[4] https://t.me/sarayaps/17480

[5] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1761643949226070449

[6] https://www.idf dot il/180657

[7] https://t.me/sarayaps/17482

[8] https://t.me/nedalps/4003

[9] www dot idf.il/182433

[10] www dot idf.il/182433 ; https://twitter.com/AvichayAdraee/status/1761712313344651380

[11] https://t.me/hamza20300/215430            ; https://t.me/hamza20300/215442 ; https://t.me/hamza20300/215784

[12] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1761643863280591242

[13] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1761643863280591242

[14] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1761643912534385062

[15] https://twitter.com/AvichayAdraee/status/1761714877293314392

[16] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1761710242612564041

[17] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1761710246265757701 ; https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1761710250963419174

[18] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1761710263001096547

[19] https://www.timesofisrael dot com/liveblog_entry/direct-aid-to-north-gaza-set-to-start-in-next-few-days-after-approval-by-war-cabinet-yesterday-report/

[20] https://www.ochaopt.org/content/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-report... ; https://www.aljazeera dot com/news/2024/2/21/wfp-halts-food-deliveries-to-north-gaza-amid-complete-chaos-violence ; https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/feb/24/unrwa-suspends-aid-to-nort...

[21] https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5831 ; https://t.me/AymanGouda/6067 ; https://t.me/QudsN/375141 ; https://t.me/sarayajneen/1195

[22] https://t.me/mmirleb/2240 ; https://t.me/mmirleb/2242 ; https://t.me/mmirleb/2246 ; https://t.me/mmirleb/2248 ; https://t.me/mmirleb/2252 ; https://t.me/C_Military1/46367 ; https://t.me/C_Military1/46369

[23] https://twitter.com/army21ye/status/1761520452269146416 ; https://twitter.com/CENTCOM/status/1761456447685267826

[24] https://twitter.com/CENTCOM/status/1761456447685267826

[25] https://twitter.com/CENTCOM/status/1761512889230479860 ; https://www.gov.uk/government/news/joint-statement-from-australia-bahrai... ; https://www.axios.com/2024/02/24/us-uk-military-houthi-strike-yemen-iran

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, February 25, 2024

Nicole Wolkov, Angelica Evans, Christina Harward, Karolina Hird, and Frederick W. Kagan

February 25, 2024, 4:30pm ET 

Click here to see ISW’s interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

Click here to see ISW’s 3D control of terrain topographic map of Ukraine. Use of a computer (not a mobile device) is strongly recommended for using this data-heavy tool.

Click here to access ISW’s archive of interactive time-lapse maps of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These maps complement the static control-of-terrain map that ISW produces daily by showing a dynamic frontline. ISW will update this time-lapse map archive monthly.

Note: The data cut-off for this product was 12pm ET on February 25. ISW will cover subsequent reports in the February 26 Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment.

Click here to read ISW’s latest warning update on the possibility of Transnistria, a pro-Russian breakaway region of Moldova, calling for Russian annexation or taking other action to support Russian hybrid operations against Moldova.

Russian officials and state media largely refrained from publicly discussing the two-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, likely in an effort to avoid addressing Russia’s failure to achieve its stated war aims at significant human costs. Russian opposition outlet Agentstvo Novosti reported on February 25 that Russian state TV channels Rossiya 1 and Channel One (Perviy Kanal) and Gazprom Media-owned TV channel NTV did not mention the two-year anniversary of the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in broadcasts on February 24.[1] Agentstvo Novosti stated that Russian political commentator Mikhail Leontev noted in a February 24 broadcast of the “Vremya” program on Channel One that it was the two-year anniversary of the start of the war but did not offer further statements on the topic. ISW observed minimal discussion by Russian government officials on the two-year anniversary of the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24.

Russian officials and state-run and state-affiliated TV channels likely refrained from commenting on the two-year anniversary of the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion to avoid drawing attention to Russia’s failures to achieve its stated strategic goals in Ukraine and its more immediate goals of seizing all of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, while also suffering high personnel losses. A recent Russian opinion poll indicated that Russian sentiments about the war in Ukraine have largely remained unchanged in recent months and that most Russians are largely apathetic to the war, though most do not support a second wave of mobilization.[2] Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian government officials likely refrained from highlighting the second anniversary of Russia‘s full-scale invasion in an effort to maintain public apathy toward the war that, in part, allows Russian officials to continue the war without significant public backlash. ISW continues to assess that Putin is likely aware that a second mobilization wave would be widely unpopular and is concerned that such a measure would generate widespread discontent.[3] Putin may, however, become less concerned about public sentiment after his reelection in March 2024 and determine that Russian force generation requirements outweigh the risks of widespread domestic discontent.

Ukrainian officials discussed Ukraine’s goals and priorities for 2024 on February 25 and highlighted the need for continued Ukrainian innovation and Western aid to accomplish Ukraine’s objectives. Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov stated that Ukraine is doing everything “possible and impossible” to make a breakthrough along the frontline and that Ukraine has an undisclosed plan for 2024 that will not only bring “hope” but also yield tangible results.[4] Umerov and Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi visited several Ukrainian command posts in the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and other directions and noted the importance of protecting Ukrainian personnel from Russian drone and air strikes in certain areas of the front.[5] Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky noted that Ukraine hopes to further reduce Russia’s advantage in battlefield artillery systems, currently estimated to be at a 6 to 1 advantage, ahead of future Ukrainian counteroffensive operations.[6] Zelensky warned that Ukraine could continue to lose territory meter by meter if Ukraine does not receive and produce additional artillery systems.[7] Ukrainian Deputy Commander-in-Chief Colonel Vadym Sukharevskyi highlighted Ukraine’s newly-formed Unmanned Systems Force as an important next step in Ukraine’s war effort that is intended to improve Ukrainian efficiency, systematization, and analysis of drone use.[8] Sukharevskyi reiterated that Ukrainian forces are not trying to use drones to replace artillery systems, but rather as additional weapons to defeat the Russian military.[9] Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Head Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov stated that Ukraine needs significant volumes of long-range weapons from Ukraine‘s Western allies, and Zelensky expressed confidence in Western provisions of long-range weapons.[10] Umerov noted that there is a critical difference between the allocation and provision of Western aid to Ukraine, and Budanov added that Russia and Ukraine are currently competing to see who will get the “upper hand” on the battlefield.[11] Several Ukrainian officials, including Zelensky, highlighted plans to hold the first Ukrainian Peace Formula Summit in Switzerland this year and emphasized the importance of further developing Ukraine’s partnership with NATO in 2024.[12]

Drone footage posted on February 25 shows Russian forces committing apparent war crimes near Bakhmut. The footage shows Russian forces executing nine Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) who had just surrendered near Ivanivske (on the outskirts of Bakhmut).[13] The execution of POWs is a violation of the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of POWs.[14] The February 25 footage is the fourth such instance of video evidence showing Russian forces executing Ukrainian POWs in the past two weeks alone.[15]

The Russian information space continues to be highly sensitive to the recent losses of A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft, suggesting that the issue of deploying and defending these aircraft is of great concern. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov stated that Ukrainian forces prepared the operation to shoot down the A-50 for two weeks.[16] Budanov stated that Russia has six more A-50s left and cryptically suggested that another A-50 will “fall” and force Russia to stop sortieing the planes “round-the-clock." A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces reported “to the top” (likely meaning to Russian high command) that a Ukrainian Patriot missile shot down the A-50, but the milblogger and others expressed doubt that this version of events was true and criticized the “systemic” problem of Russian personnel only thinking of themselves and their careers out of “self-preservation.”[17] Ukrainian media previously reported that sources in the Ukrainian GUR stated that Ukraine downed the A-50 with modified S-200 systems.[18] Another Russian milblogger claimed that the loss of a second Russian A-50 this winter is problematic as Russia already had a shortage of these aircraft before its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.[19] The milblogger claimed that Russia will not be able to modernize many A-50s into A-50Us for a number of unspecified technical and organizational reasons and offered possible alternatives, including creating inferior “ersatz” airborne and early warning control systems (AWACS) or purchasing similar aircraft from China.

Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Head Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov stated that Russia has not received any long-range missiles from Iran as of February 25.[20] Reuters reported on February 21, citing alleged Iranian sources, that Iran provided Russia hundreds of short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) in early January 2024.[21] ISW has not yet observed visual evidence of Russian forces using Iranian missiles in Ukraine but has frequently observed increased Russo-Iranian military cooperation over the backdrop of the war.[22]

Key Takeaways:

  • Russian officials and state media largely refrained from publicly discussing the two-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, likely in an effort to avoid addressing Russia’s failure to achieve its stated war aims at significant human costs.
  • Russian officials and state-run and state-affiliated TV channels likely refrained from commenting on the two-year anniversary of the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion to avoid drawing attention to Russia’s failures to achieve its stated strategic goals in Ukraine and its more immediate goals of seizing all of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, while also suffering high personnel losses.
  • Ukrainian officials discussed Ukraine’s goals and priorities for 2024 on February 25 and highlighted the need for continued Ukrainian innovation and Western aid to accomplish Ukraine’s objectives.
  • Drone footage posted on February 25 shows Russian forces committing apparent war crimes near Bakhmut.
  • The Russian information space continues to be highly sensitive to the recent losses of A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft, suggesting that the issue of deploying and defending these aircraft is of great concern.
  • Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Head Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov stated that Russia has not received any long-range missiles from Iran as of February 25.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Bakhmut and Krynky amid continued positional engagements along the entire line of contact on February 25.
  • Russian authorities continue efforts to recruit Ukrainian citizens in occupied Ukraine into the Russian military.
  • Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada Human Rights Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets stated on February 25 that Russia is holding over 28,000 Ukrainian citizens captive in Russian prisons.

 

We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because these activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and the Ukrainian population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict and the Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

  • Russian Main Effort – Eastern Ukraine (comprised of two subordinate main efforts)
  • Russian Subordinate Main Effort #1 – Capture the remainder of Luhansk Oblast and push westward into eastern Kharkiv Oblast and encircle northern Donetsk Oblast
  • Russian Subordinate Main Effort #2 – Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast
  • Russian Supporting Effort – Southern Axis
  • Russian Air, Missile, and Drone Campaign
  • Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
  • Russian Technological Adaptations
  • Activities in Russian-occupied areas
  • Ukrainian Defense Industrial Base Efforts
  • Russian Information Operations and Narratives
  • Significant Activity in Belarus

Russian Main Effort – Eastern Ukraine

Russian Subordinate Main Effort #1 – Luhansk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the remainder of Luhansk Oblast and push westward into eastern Kharkiv Oblast and northern Donetsk Oblast)

Positional engagements continued along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on February 25, but there were no confirmed changes to the frontline. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces advanced west of Kreminna near Yampolivka and Terny over the past week.[23] Ukrainian and Russian sources stated that positional fighting continued northeast of Kupyansk near Synkivka; southeast of Kupyansk near Tabaivka; west of Kreminna near Terny and Torske; and south of Kreminna near Bilohorivka.[24] Ukrainian Luhansk Oblast Head Artem Lysohor reported that Russian forces have to spend two or three days regrouping after each assault in the Kupyansk and Lyman directions due to personnel and equipment losses.[25] Elements of the Russian “GORB” detachment are reportedly operating near Bilohorivka.[26]

Russian Subordinate Main Effort #2 – Donetsk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)

Russian forces recently advanced near Bakhmut on February 25. Geolocated footage published on February 25 indicates that Russian forces recently advanced north of Ivanivske (west of Bakhmut).[27] Positional engagements continued near Ivanivske; northwest of Bakhmut near Bohdanivka; and southwest of Bakhmut near Klishchiivka, Andriivka, Niu York, and Pivdenne.[28] Elements of the Russian 177th Naval Infantry Regiment (Caspian Flotilla) are reportedly operating south of Bakhmut.[29]

 

Russian forces reportedly advanced west of Avdiivka on February 25, but there were no confirmed changes to the frontline. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces advanced west of Lastochkyne (west of Avdiivka) and began clearing operations in the settlement, although ISW has not observed visual evidence of these claims.[30] Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Dmytro Lykhovyi stated that Ukrainian forces withdrew to the western outskirts of Lastochkyne, where they took up prepared defensive positions.[31] Russian milbloggers continued to claim that Russian forces captured all of Sieverne (west of Avdiivka) and Stepove (northwest of Avdiivka), although ISW has not observed visual evidence of recent advances in these areas.[32] Positional engagements continued northwest of Avdiivka near Novobakhmutivka, Berdychi, and Stepove; west of Avdiivka near Lastochkyne, Tonenke, and Sieverne; and southwest of Avdiivka near Pervomaiske and Nevelske.[33] Elements of the Russian 110th Motorized Rifle Brigade (1st Donetsk People’s Republic Army Corps [DNR AC]) reportedly continue operating in the Nevelske-Pervomaiske area, and elements of the Russian 114th Motorized Rifle Brigade (1st DNR AC) are reportedly operating north of Avdiivka.[34]

 

Ukrainian forces reportedly regained some positions southwest of Donetsk City on February 25, but there were no confirmed changes to the frontline. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces regained some positions near Solodke (southwest of Donetsk City).[35] Positional engagements continued west of Donetsk City near Heorhiivka and Krasnohorivka; and south of Donetsk City near Pobieda and Novomykhailivka.[36] Elements of the Russian 150th Motorized Rifle Division (8th Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District) are reportedly operating near Heorhiivka.[37]

 

Russian Supporting Effort – Southern Axis (Russian objective: Maintain frontline positions and secure rear areas against Ukrainian strikes)

Limited positional engagements continued in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area on February 25, but there were no confirmed changes to the frontline in this area. Russian and Ukrainian sources reported fighting south of Zolota Nyva and Novodonetske (both southeast of Velyka Novosilka) and near Hulyaipole (45km southwest of Velyka Novosilka).[38] A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces have created a “strike force” in this direction but noted that the group has not yet entered active combat.[39] The alleged strike force may be referring to uncommitted tactical reserves in this area. Elements of the 218th Tank Regiment (127th Motorized Rifle Division, 5th Combined Arms Army [CAA], Eastern Military District [EMD]) and the 29th CAA (EMD) are reportedly active in this area.[40]

 

Russian forces reportedly advanced within Robotyne amid continued localized offensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast. A prominent Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Russian forces are attacking and advancing in eastern and northern Robotyne, and other Russian milbloggers claimed that heavy fighting is ongoing in and around the settlement.[41] A milblogger additionally claimed that Russian forces captured positions southwest of Verbove (east of Robotyne), but ISW has not yet observed visual evidence of this claim.[42] Some milbloggers additionally noted that Ukrainian forces are trying to counterattack and push Russian troops back to the outskirts of Robotyne.[43] A Russian source also reported that Russian forces have become more active on the Kamyanske sector of the front (about 35km northwest of Robotyne) and that there are ongoing battles in this area.[44] Elements of the Russian 70th Motorized Rifle Regiment (42nd Motorized Rifle Division, 58th CAA, Southern Military District [SMD]) and the 7th and 76th Airborne (VDV) divisions are reportedly active in the Robotyne area.[45]

 

Geolocated footage posted on February 25 shows that Russian forces marginally advanced along Ostap Vyshnyi Street in Krynky.[46] Ukrainian and Russian sources reported continued positional engagements in Krynky despite Russian claims that Russian forces have entirely recaptured the settlement.[47] Elements of the 45th Guards Spetsnaz Brigade and the newly formed 337th VDV Regiment (104th VDV Division) are reportedly operating in and near Krynky.[48]

 

Russian Air, Missile, and Drone Campaign (Russian Objective: Target Ukrainian military and civilian infrastructure in the rear and on the frontline)

Russian forces launched 18 Shahed-136/131 drones at Ukrainian rear areas on the night of February 24 to 25.[49] Ukrainian military sources reported that Ukrainian air defense forces destroyed 16 of the Shaheds over Poltava, Kyiv, Khmelnytskyi, Mykolaiv, Kirovohrad, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, and Kherson oblasts.[50] Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command also reported that Ukrainian forces downed two Kh-31P anti-radar missiles over Odesa Oblast overnight on February 24-25.[51]

Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)

Russian authorities continue efforts to recruit Ukrainian citizens in occupied Ukraine into the Russian military. The Ukrainian Presidential Representative in Crimea stated on February 25 that they confirmed that Ukraine has captured at least 41 Russian military personnel from occupied Crimea, most of whom are likely Ukrainian citizens whom Russian occupation authorities forcibly mobilized.[52] The Ukrainian Presidential Representative in Crimea also stated that Russian authorities have set up a mobile military recruitment point in central Simferopol and are “agitating” Crimeans to sign contracts with the Russian military. Ukrainian Luhansk Oblast Military Administration Head Artem Lysohor stated on February 25 that coal mining enterprises in occupied Luhansk Oblast have canceled mobilization exemptions for miners and that Russian medical commissions will begin medical examinations to determine whom to mobilize into the Russian military at the beginning of March 2024.[53] The Ukrainian Resistance Center also stated on February 25 that Russian authorities have mobilized miners in occupied Ukraine to fight for Russia.[54] The forced mobilization of residents of occupied areas of Crimea is likely a violation of international law—the Geneva Convention prevents an occupying power from forcing residents of the area it occupies to serve in the occupying power’s army.[55]

Russian Technological Adaptations (Russian objective: Introduce technological innovations to optimize systems for use in Ukraine)

Nothing significant to report.

Ukrainian Defense Industrial Efforts (Ukrainian objective: Develop its defense industrial base to become more self-sufficient in cooperation with US, European, and international partners)

Ukraine continues efforts to bolster its defense industrial base (DIB) for 2024. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal stated on February 25 that Ukraine has tripled its DIB production capacity and has increased the production of drones 100 times.[56] Ukrainian Minister for Strategic Industries Oleksandr Kamyshin reported on February 25 that Ukraine tripled its DIB in 2023 and will increase DIB output sixfold in 2024.[57] Kamyshin also noted that Ukraine had created its own long-range weapon that can hit targets at a range of 700km but did not offer additional specifications about the long-range weapon.[58]

Activities in Russian-occupied areas (Russian objective: Consolidate administrative control of annexed areas; forcibly integrate Ukrainian citizens into Russian sociocultural, economic, military, and governance systems)

Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada Human Rights Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets stated on February 25 that Russia is currently holding over 28,000 Ukrainian citizens captive in Russian prisons.[59] Lubinets stated that the prisoners include three official representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) whom Russian authorities detained in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Lubinets stated that Ukraine is searching for new approaches to return the Ukrainian civilians, as international law prohibits exchanges of civilians for civilians. Lubinets stated that Qatari government officials said they were ready to try to negotiate the return of the civilian hostages during a recent meeting. The BBC’s Russian Service reported in January 2024 that Russian authorities have detained thousands of Ukrainian civilians in penal colonies and pre-trial detention centers in Russia and occupied Ukraine without charges, investigations, trials, access to lawyers, or designated release dates.[60]

Russian opposition media reported on February 25 that drunk soldiers of the Russian 81st “Medvedi” Volunteer Brigade broke into a cafe in occupied Chornomorske, Crimea and brutally assaulted and fired on residents following a verbal disagreement over the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.[61] Surveillance footage shows the servicemen severely injuring several cafe patrons on the night of February 23 to 24, and Russian milbloggers claimed that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has opened a criminal case against the soldiers.[62] Russian opposition outlet Vazhnye Istorii reported that Russian authorities urged them to “keep the story quiet” when they reached out to identify the Russian servicemen involved.[63] The Russian 81st Volunteer Brigade is reportedly affiliated with the Russian “Redut” private military company (PMC) and Crimean occupation head Sergei Akseyonov’s ”Crimean People’s Militia.”[64]

Early voting for the March 15-17, 2024 Russian presidential election began in occupied Zaporizhia Oblast on February 25.[65] Kherson Oblast occupation governor Vladimir Saldo stated that early voting will occur in occupied Kherson Oblast from February 27-29 and March 1-3.[66] The Group of Seven (G7) issued a statement on February 24 stating that the G7 will not recognize Russian elections held in occupied Ukraine or their results.[67]

Russian Information Operations and Narratives

The Ukrainian Coordination Center for Treatment of Prisoners of War (POWs) reported on February 25 that Russia is conducting an information operation aimed at spreading domestic distrust in Ukrainian authorities by circulating a list on social media of Ukrainian POWs who Ukrainian authorities allegedly refuse to exchange.[68] The Ukrainian Coordination Center for Treatment of POWs stated that the lists include the names of Ukrainian POWs, but that Russian authorities have not offered these personnel for exchange. ISW has observed several milbloggers participating in this information operation.[69]

Significant activity in Belarus (Russian efforts to increase its military presence in Belarus and further integrate Belarus into Russian-favorable frameworks and Wagner Group activity in Belarus)

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko continues to resist the Kremlin’s efforts to integrate Belarus into the Union State framework. Lukashenko stated on February 25 that Russia and Belarus are more powerful as two independent states than one state and that Belarus will “never support” the idea of merging Russia and Belarus.[70]

Note: ISW does not receive any classified material from any source, uses only publicly available information, and draws extensively on Russian, Ukrainian, and Western reporting and social media as well as commercially available satellite imagery and other geospatial data as the basis for these reports. References to all sources used are provided in the endnotes of each update.

 


[1] https://t.me/agentstvonews/5162

[2] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign...

[3] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign...

[4] https://suspilne dot media/692180-ukraina-vze-mae-plan-na-2024-rik-umerov/ ; https://meduza dot io/news/2024/02/25/ministr-oborony-ukrainy-u-nas-uzhe-est-moschnyy-plan-na-2024-god-on-dast-rezultat

[5] https://t.me/osirskiy/594 ; https://t.me/osirskiy/595 ; https://armyinform dot com.ua/2024/02/25/rustem-umyerov-ta-oleksandr-syrskyj-vidvidaly-peredovi-komandni-punkty-i-pidrozdily-na-fronti/

[6] https://suspilne dot media/692382-zelenskij-nazvav-umovu-prosuvanna-ukrainskih-vijsk-na-fronti/

[7] https://suspilne dot media/692382-zelenskij-nazvav-umovu-prosuvanna-ukrainskih-vijsk-na-fronti/

[8] https://armyinform dot com.ua/2024/02/25/nadijna-pidtrymka-bojovyh-brygad-vadym-suharevskyj-rozpoviv-pro-zavdannya-syl-bezpilotnyh-system/

[9] https://armyinform dot com.ua/2024/02/25/ukrayina-ne-namagayetsya-zaminyty-dronamy-artyleriyu-zastupnyk-golovnokomanduvacha-zsu/

[10] https://armyinform.com dot ua/2024/02/25/volodymyr-zelenskyj-rozpoviv-pro-pozytyv-u-peregovorah-shhodo-dalekobijnoyi-zbroyi/ ; https://armyinform.com dot ua/2024/02/25/dalekobijna-zbroya-dozvolyt-ukrayini-perelamaty-sytuacziyu-u-vijni-z-rf-kyrylo-budanov/

[11] https://armyinform.com dot ua/2024/02/25/dalekobijna-zbroya-dozvolyt-ukrayini-perelamaty-sytuacziyu-u-vijni-z-rf-kyrylo-budanov/ ; https://suspilne dot media/692042-dvostoronni-ugodi-z-italieu-ta-kanadou-britania-vidilit-grosi-na-artilerijski-boepripasi-732-den-vijni-onlajn/?anchor=live_1708865747&utm_source=copylink&utm_medium=ps

[12] https://armyinform dot com.ua/2024/02/25/nachalnyk-gur-nazvav-try-formy-vplyvu-na-vykonannya-rosiyeyu-umov-formuly-myru/ ; https://armyinform dot com.ua/2024/02/25/ukrayina-zaprosyt-na-pershyj-samit-myru-ponad-160-krayin-na-drugomu-mozhe-buty-rf-andrij-yermak/ ; https://www.president dot gov.ua/en/news/lishe-zaproshennya-ukrayini-do-nato-dast-yevropi-ta-svitu-re-89265 ; https://hromadske dot ua/ru/posts/zelenskij-pervyj-sammit-mira-planiruem-provesti-vesnoj-etogo-goda

[13] WARNING: Graphic Content https://x.com/EjShahid/status/1761801767031853549?s=20; https://x.com/G...

[14] https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/en/ihl-treaties/gciii-1949/article-3

[15] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign... https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign...

[16] https://suspilne.media/692042-dvostoronni-ugodi-z-italieu-ta-kanadou-bri...

[17] https://t.me/belarusian_silovik/30642 ; https://t.me/dva_majors/35201 ; https://t.me/belarusian_silovik/30643 ; https://t.me/dva_majors/35203

[18] https://isw.pub/UkrWar022424

[19] https://t.me/rybar/57553

[20] https://suspilne dot media/692042-dvostoronni-ugodi-z-italieu-ta-kanadou-britania-vidilit-grosi-na-artilerijski-boepripasi-732-den-vijni-onlajn/?anchor=live_1708866625&utm_source=copylink&utm_medium=ps

[21] https://isw.pub/UkrWarO22124

[22] https://isw.pub/UkrWar020624; https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/iran-update-february-15-2024

[23] https://t.me/wargonzo/18413

[24] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02q8ipCUp4zNHQYVoQM7...

[25] https://t.me/luhanskaVTSA/17255

[26] https://t.me/sons_fatherland/12882

[27] https://x.com/EjShahid/status/1761801767031853549?s=20; https://x.com/GloOouD/status/1761799108996616537?s=20; https://t.me/vdd98/2670; https://t.me/creamy_caprice/4544

[28] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid09nZPCZ1rHQJ9xT33UJc... https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1132292224849956 ; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02q8ipCUp4zNHQYVoQM7... ; https://t.me/rybar/57540 ; https://t.me/DnevnikDesantnika/7662 ; https://t.me/dva_majors/35206 ; https://t.me/wargonzo/18407 ; https://t.me/wargonzo/18413 ; https://t.me/mod_russia/36024

[29] https://t.me/boris_rozhin/114303

[30] https://t.me/rybar/57540 ; https://t.me/z_arhiv/26130

[31] https://suspilne dot media/692276-na-okolicah-lastockinogo-poblizu-avdiivki-trivaut-zapekli-boi-osuv-tavria/

[32] https://t.me/negumanitarnaya_pomosch_Z/15148 ; https://t.me/boris_rozh...

[33] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02q8ipCUp4zNHQYVoQM7... https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid09nZPCZ1rHQJ9xT33UJc... https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1132292224849956 ; https://www.facebook.com/PresscentrTavria/posts/pfbid0fr6fg9Mmhek4JbDWjH... ; https://t.me/mod_russia/36024 ; https://t.me/DnevnikDesantnika/7657 ;...

[34] https://t.me/RVvoenkor/62721 ; https://t.me/z_arhiv/26132

[35] https://t.me/wargonzo/18407

[36] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02q8ipCUp4zNHQYVoQM7... ; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid09nZPCZ1rHQJ9xT33UJc... https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1132292224849956 ; https://www.facebook.com/PresscentrTavria/posts/pfbid0fr6fg9Mmhek4JbDWjH... ; https://t.me/dva_majors/35206 ; https://t.me/rybar/57540 ; https://t.me/boris_rozhin/114366 ; https://t.me/wargonzo/18413

[37] https://t.me/prigozhin_2023_tg/8232

[38] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02q8ipCUp4zNHQYVoQM7...

[39] https://t.me/wargonzo/18413

[40] https://t.me/voin_dv/7228; https://t.me/voin_dv/7217 (north of Pryyutne)

[41] https://t.me/rybar/57534; https://t.me/dva_majors/35200; https://t.me/...

[42] https://t.me/wargonzo/1841

[43] https://t.me/boris_rozhin/114366; https://t.me/notes_veterans/15729

[44] https://t.me/wargonzo/18407

[45] https://t.me/rybar/57534; https://t.me/RVvoenkor/62696; https://t.me/R...

[46] https://t.me/WarArchive_ua/11481

[47] https://t.me/dva_majors/35206; https://t.me/wargonzo/18413; https://ww...

[48] https://t.me/rybar/57549; https://twitter.com/666_mancer/status/1761666... https://t.me/BALUhubBALU/8962

[49] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid09nZPCZ1rHQJ9xT33UJc... https://armyinform dot com.ua/2024/02/25/syly-oborony-znyshhyly-vnochi-16-shahediv/

[50] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid09nZPCZ1rHQJ9xT33UJc... https://armyinform dot com.ua/2024/02/25/syly-oborony-znyshhyly-vnochi-16-shahediv/

[51] https://t.me/SJTF_Odes/6536 ; https://armyinform dot com.ua/2024/02/25/syly-ppo-zbyly-na-odeshhyni-dvi-protyradiolokaczijni-rakety-h-31p/

[52] https://www.facebook.com/ppu.gov.ua/posts/pfbid02nJUDtuL8ZYFzsxQGvakM3w8...

[53] https://t.me/luhanskaVTSA/17255

[54] https://sprotyv.mod dot gov.ua/okupanty-mayut-namir-intensyfikuvaty-vydobutok-korysnyh-kopalyn-na-tot/

[55] https://guide-humanitarian-law.org/content/article/3/occupied-territory/

[56] https://suspilne dot media/692042-dvostoronni-ugodi-z-italieu-ta-kanadou-britania-vidilit-grosi-na-artilerijski-boepripasi-732-den-vijni-onlajn/?anchor=live_1708861766&utm_source=copylink&utm_medium=ps

[57] https://www.ukrinform dot ua/rubric-economy/3831915-spromoznosti-vitciznanogo-oboronnogo-sektoru-cogoric-zrostut-usestero-kamisin.html

[58] https://armyinform.com dot ua/2024/02/25/ukrayina-maye-gibrydne-ppo-i-dalekobijnu-zbroyu-yaka-vrazyla-czil-na-700-km-oleksandr-kamyshin/

[59] https://suspilne dot media/692042-dvostoronni-ugodi-z-italieu-ta-kanadou-britania-vidilit-grosi-na-artilerijski-boepripasi-732-den-vijni-onlajn/?anchor=live_1708867685&utm_source=copylink&utm_medium=ps

[60] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign...

[61] https://t.me/istories_media/5220 ; https://meduza dot io/news/2024/02/25/rossiyskie-voennye-izbili-posetiteley-kafe-v-anneksirovannom-krymu; https://t.me/bbcrussian/61198 ; https://www.svoboda.org/a/v-krymu-voen... ru/2024/02/24/73266566/ ; https://t.me/idelrealii/33970 ; https://t.me/astrapress/49229

[62] https://www.svoboda.org/a/v-krymu-voennye-brigady-medvedi-zhestoko-izbil... ru/2024/02/24/73266566/ ; https://t.me/idelrealii/33970 ; https://t.me/astrapress/49229 ; http... ua/ru/v-krymu-chvk-medved-napali-na-posetitelej-kafe-krepost-est-postradavshie-24-kanal_n2501856 ; https://crimea-news dot com/society/2024/02/25/1308305.html ; https://t.me/southtower/10323 ; https://t.me/boris_rozhin/114370

[63] https://t.me/istories_media/5220

[64] https://www.svoboda.org/a/v-krymu-voennye-brigady-medvedi-zhestoko-izbil... ru/2024/02/24/73266566/ ; https://t.me/idelrealii/33970 ; https://t.me/astrapress/49229

[65] https://t.me/berdmisk/6771 ; https://t.me/BalitskyEV/2686 ; https://... gov.ua/okupanty-zazdalegid-pochaly-imitatsiyu-vyboriv/ ; https://t.me/ivan_fedorov_zp/4848; https://t.me/zoda_gov_ua/26597

[66] https://t.me/SALDO_VGA/2288

[67] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2024/02/24/...'s%20sovereignty.

[68] https://t.me/Koord_shtab/4415 ; https://armyinform dot com.ua/2024/02/25/koordshtab-poperedyv-pro-fejk-u-soczmerzhah-shhodo-polonenyh-yakyh-ukrayina-nibyto-ne-hoche-zabyraty/

[69] https://t.me/JokerDPR/736 ; https://t.me/NeoficialniyBeZsonoV/33490 ; https://t.me/boris_rozhin/114297

[70] https://t.me/tass_agency/233367 ; https://t.me/pul_1/11493 ; https:/...