Ukraine’s General Intelligence Directorate (GUR) said on Wednesday that the Russian armed forces had been given just over three weeks to take full control of Ukraine’s Luhansk region.

During an interview with Interfax-Ukraine, Vadym Skibitsky, deputy head of the GUR, it is said that the Kremlin wants control of Luhansk before the next Russian presidential election.

The country’s presidential elections will be held from March 15 to 17. Russian President Vladimir Putin is the big favorite to win an election that Western observers say is rigged. Although polls indicate that Putin is popular with the Russian public, support for his war in Ukraine has begun to wane. Therefore, victories like the capture of Luhansk Oblast could give Putin something to show his people for the sacrifices of the war.

“Before the elections, they want to reach at least the administrative borders of Luhansk Oblast (Province),” Skibitsky told Interfax-Urkaine. “Have at least some success, something like Avdiivka, maybe on some other front.”

And he continued: “There are key points: [the cities of] Kupyansk, Lyman and Avdiivka. Why Kupyansk and Lyman? To demonstrate that they have supposedly managed to return the territories that Ukraine liberated after the start of the large-scale aggression. It would be symbolic. “It is an element that would be used very actively in operations, actions and the information space of an informative and psychological nature.”

Skibitsky said that in addition to reaching the administrative borders of Luhansk, Russia’s goals for the next six months include taking control of Donetsk Oblast while holding territories it has already taken in parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

“Holding means active defense or pushing us back to the positions from which we began our offensive,” Skibitsky stated.

The areas under control in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces have strategic value because they give Russia land access to Crimea.

“They need a logistics system that passes through Crimea to bring ammunition, equipment and personnel to the south,” the GUR representative said.

According to Skibitsky, the Russian presidential elections have caused Putin’s forces to concentrate on one part of Ukraine. He said three battalions of Russian soldiers were recently transferred from occupied Mariupol to the Russian border region of Belgorod “to ensure the security and conduct of the elections” following multiple Ukrainian attacks in the area.

Faced with a likely Russian offensive in Luhansk and other areas, as well as the prospect of the war continuing into the foreseeable future, Skibitsky stressed the importance of Ukraine building its defenses.

“We understand how important it is for us to have reserves, how fundamental it is to have the support of our partners, to develop our production,” he said. “This nature of the actions of the Russian Federation, with the resounding name of ‘offensive’, implies a protracted war. “A war of attrition.”

Jon Jackson