Russian forces concentrated on offensive actions against Ukrainian troops on the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Novopavlivka fronts in Donetsk Oblast, and Kupiansk in Kharkiv Oblast.
Moscow moved additional assault groups, units, and military equipment to the east of Ukraine after President Vladimir Putin ordered his generals to capture the Donetsk and Luhansk regions by the end of March, Ukrainian intelligence said. Russian forces also stepped-up shelling in Kharkiv Oblast as they sought to stretch the front line and prevent the concentration of Ukrainian forces at any one point.
Residents in Kherson Oblast reported occupation troops moving into their apartments and houses, while in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, civilians have been forcibly evicted to accommodate collaborators. In Donetsk Oblast, Russian forces plan to hand over seized apartments and houses, which they refer to as “abandoned property,” to military personnel and local supporters.
The invaders continued to deport people from occupied areas, including 50 high school students from Luhansk Oblast, who were taken to the Russian Republic of Tatarstan to prepare for exams needed to attend Russian universities and professional colleges.
Russian forces are seeking to replenish their military losses through the mobilization of local civilians in Crimea. They also brought a reported 3,500 convicts from prisons in the occupied Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts to the peninsula to join the Wagner mercenary group. Fifty inmates were recruited from a women's penal colony in occupied Donetsk Oblast.
The occupiers continued their campaign to blur Ukrainian identity and influence children. In Crimean schools, they have opened branches of “Movement of the First,” a Kremlin-sponsored Russian youth organization. In Kherson Oblast, occupying forces want to open cadet classes named after an 18th-century Russian general, while in the Luhansk region, parents are being forced to send their children to Cossack cadet corps from the age of six.
The occupying forces continued covert mobilization on the peninsula. In Sevastopol, Russian military commissariats have been assigned the task of replenishing Russia's losses by calling up local people. “All civilian employees are required to fill out forms where they must indicate information about their military rank in reserve and the availability of a driver's license,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported on Facebook.
Russian forces continued taking convicts to Crimea. The occupiers took 3,500 people from prisons in the occupied territories of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts against their will and moved them to the peninsula, according to Ukraine’s Special Operation Forces’ National Resistance Center website. Mercenaries from the Wagner group then sought to recruit the convicts to join their organization. The majority refused and were being kept in “unbearable” conditions, the resistance said.
Thirty-three people were detained near the court building in Simferopol after they had gone to support Crimean Tatars arrested on charges of “terrorism” and “connections with Ukraine,” Radio Liberty’s Crimea Realities reported. Human rights defender Lutfiie Zudiieva said the practice of mass detentions near courts in Crimea has become systematic.
“When people come to the courthouse and try to support their loved ones, they are simply herded onto buses in such an aggressive manner, and then taken to district offices and marinated until the morning, when fines and administrative arrests are imposed,” Zudiieva told the radio station. “No one can put up with this. This causes an even greater desire to fight and oppose it.”
The occupation authorities are “buying” the loyalty of Kherson residents forced to move to Crimea by giving them cash and access to housing. They have opened assistance centers and introduced preliminary registration for housing certificates, along with payments of 100,000 rubles ($1,415) for residents from Kherson Oblast. A housing certificate allows a person to buy a property at the expense of the state and can only be accessed by those with Russian passports with registration in the city of Kherson or Kherson Oblast. In a move to build links between occupied territories, the Russian authorities in Crimea launched a bus service between the peninsula and the occupied Kherson region, the “head” of annexed Crimea said on his Telegram channel.
Legislators from the parliament of occupied Crimea approved the confiscation of Ukrainian-owned facilities and factories along with the property of 12 Ukrainian banks. About 500 properties belonging to various enterprises are on the list and include tourist and sports infrastructure. The seizures will be used to support people from Crimea who fought in the “special military operation” in Ukraine “by granting ownership free of charge of land owned by the Republic of Crimea,” the occupation parliament said in a statement.
Russian media outlet Verstka reported that Russian authorities took more than 14 orphans under the age of five from Kherson to “Elochka,” a Crimean orphanage. “According to the ‘Working program’ of the orphanage for 2021-2025, the institution must educate children in ‘higher moral feelings,’ including ‘patriotism and citizenship,’ and also form the idea that ‘Crimea is in the south of Russia’ and the ‘realization of oneself as a citizen of multinational Russia,’” Verstka reported. Such an action would be a violation of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of children from the zone of hostilities to the territory of the aggressor state or those under its occupation.
In Crimean schools, Russia continued to undermine Ukrainian identity and use propaganda to steer children’s opinions. The ceremonial opening of branches of the state-backed Russian youth organization "Movement of the First," which is modeled on the Soviet-era Young Pioneers, took place in several schools on the peninsula. The mission of the organization is “educating the patriotic spirit of youth,” with a motto, "To be with Russia, to be human, to be together, to be on the move, to be the first."
The Russian military continued to attack different settlements of Donetsk Oblast, particularly Kramatorsk, Kurakhove, Soledar, Vuhledar, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Druzhkivka.
“This week, the Russian occupying forces threw all their forces into breaking through Ukraine’s defense and the encirclement of Bakhmut, and launched powerful offensive actions on the Lyman front,” wrote Hanna Maliar, Ukraine’s deputy minister of defense. “They did not achieve success.”
According to Andrii Cherniak, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense’s Directorate of Intelligence, Putin has ordered the Russian army to capture the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk by March, leading to a refocusing of its strategy. “We observe that the Russian occupying forces are redeploying additional assault groups, units, weapons, and military equipment to the east,” Cherniak said.
The occupiers continued recruiting convicts for their military operations. “This week, the Russians recruited about 50 people from the women's penal colony in the city of Snizhne, in the temporarily occupied territory of Donetsk Oblast. They were sent to the territory of the Russian Federation for training,” the General Staff of Ukraine reported on February 4.
In occupied Horlivka, all medical facilities are full of wounded Russian soldiers, so kindergartens, schools, and warehouses have been converted into field hospitals. “Medical staff from Yakutia [in the far east of Russia] arrived at one of these hospitals, where about 70 people are being treated, in the city of Svitlodarsk, Donetsk region,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported.
Russian forces plan to hand seized homes to the Russian military and collaborators. According to the National Resistance Center, the houses and apartments of those who left the region due to the occupation, referred to as “abandoned properties” by the invaders, will be given to Russian soldiers and local supporters of the occupation starting on May 1.
The number of Russian servicemen stationed in Mariupol and its vicinity increased by between 10,000 and 15,000 in a week, bringing the total to approximately 30,000 in the area, Petro Andriushchenko, advisor to the Mayor of Mariupol, wrote on Telegram on February 3. He said Russian soldiers have mentioned “the priority of an attack in the direction of Vuhledar and Zaporizhzhia” in conversations with local residents. According to Andriushchenko, 2-3,000 of Ramzan Kadyrov’s Chechen mercenaries have also set up camp in a village on the coast.
On the Donetsk front, a Special Rapid Response Unit was brought in to suppress riots among Russian troops, Colonel Oleksii Dmytrashkivskyi, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Defence Forces, told Rada TV Channel. The unit’s deployment wasn’t related to military action, but to deal with the psychological state and morale of the troops, he said.
Russian soldiers continued to attack Kharkiv and the adjacent areas. On January 29, a Russian missile hit a four-story residential block, killing one person and injuring three. The upper floors and roof of the building were destroyed, and a large fire broke out.
The result of two Russian missiles hitting an apartment building and a university in the center of Kharkiv on February 5.
The invaders have not stopped trying to occupy Kharkiv and restore their lost territory in the region. There is a concentration of Russian troops on the Kupiansk, Belgorod, and Bohodukhiv fronts. Moscow’s forces increased the intensity of shelling in the area, as they want to stretch the front line as much as possible to prevent the concentration of Ukrainian forces on any single front, Oleh Syniehubov, head of the Kharkiv Oblast Military Administration, said in a briefing on February 3.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported Russian forces are preparing to destroy the road infrastructure and mine bridges, dams, and crossings in the area of Tavilzhanka, in the Kupiansk district.
Russian soldiers continued to attack Kherson and settlements of Kherson Oblast, using artillery, rocket launchers, mortars, tanks, and infantry vehicles. On February 2, Kherson city was attacked 13 times, hitting the shipyard, a school, and residential buildings. Four days later, the Russian occupiers fired at a civilian vehicle in occupied Hola Prystan, killing three people, including an 8-year-old boy.
Residents of occupied Verkhnii Rohachyk and Tavriiske reported that Russian occupiers have moved into their apartments and houses, according to a post by Kherson Oblast State Administration on Telegram, citing the national police.
Volodymyr Saldo, head of the Russian-appointed administration for the occupied Kherson region, announced the complete “evacuation” of residents and organizations from a 15-kilometer strip on the east bank of the Dnipro River, where the occupiers fled after the counter-offensive by Ukrainian forces in November 2022. The displaced people are being moved to Yekaterinburg, Russia.
People who were deported to Tomsk Oblast, Russia, from the Kherson region have been told they will receive housing assistance and money as the Russian authorities continue to manipulate the concept of “cause and effect.”
Saldo announced that his Russian-appointed administration wants to open two Suvorov cadet classes for children in occupied Skadovsk, named after Aleksandr Suvorov, an 18th-century Russian general. “I consider this very important for patriotic education: knowledge of the history of the native country and the native region must be laid from childhood,” Saldo said.
According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, such cadet classes with enhanced military training are also being created in schools in the Skadovsk district. “The Russian invaders promise that the graduates of these classes will be given benefits when entering contract military service in the form of appointments to sergeant positions,” the General Staff said in a posting on Facebook.
The Russian occupiers have also forbidden schoolchildren from learning online using Ukrainian programs in the occupied settlements of the Kakhovka district, the general staff said. Local teachers refuse to teach children according to the Russian curriculum, and the occupiers have threatened to take the children to Russia and occupied Crimea by force if they do not comply.
Russian troops continued attacking Ochakiv and Kutsurub hromadas (municipalities), using multiple rocket systems and artillery.
As of February 1, the Kinburn Spit (a peninsula jutting into the Dnipro River’s access to the Black Sea), is still in the "gray" zone, meaning that neither Ukraine nor Russia’s armed forces have full control over the territory.
Vitalii Kim, head of Mykolaiv Oblast Military Administration, told CEPA that Russian forces remain on the spit and constantly attack liberated territory in Mykolaiv Oblast on the opposite bank. The oblast used to export a third of Ukraine’s grain but has been excluded from the grain agreement. “The Russians are present there and are constantly firing to show that they control this strait,” he said. “It might also be because they want to have a negotiating position.”
There are civilians on the Kinburn Spit, but it’s not possible to help them, Kim told CEPA. “The occupiers have cut off the way we had for humanitarian aid by sea,” he said. “Now it is impossible because they are shooting at all the ships, even civilian [ships] that could help the residents.”
The Russian occupiers gave local “governors” of the occupied territories of the Luhansk region an ultimatum: either the whole oblast should be under Russian control by April 1, or there will be “personnel decisions.” The Kremlin is not satisfied with the mobilization and logistical support for the Russian army in the region, and it blames Russian-appointed local governors and other collaborators for its failures, according to the National Resistance Center.
Some Russian contractors have refused to send workers to build fortifications in the occupied territories of Luhansk Oblast, “due to the Russian Army’s inability to guarantee security for their workers,” the Center said.
Russian forces were preparing to evacuate collaborators and their families from Troitske district, according to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on February 4.
Meanwhile, Russian forces continued losing personnel and dealing with casualties. In occupied Luhansk, they turned three civilian medical facilities into military hospitals, employing Russian physicians because the occupiers do not trust local doctors, the National Resistance Center said. Facilities turned over to the military included maternity hospitals, so women now have to go to Russia to give birth, the center reported.
The Russian occupying forces took 50 high school students from the occupied city of Lysychansk to Yelabuga, in the Russian Republic of Tatarstan. According to the National Resistance Center, the 11th grade students (15-17 years old) were taken to prepare for the Unified Russian State Exam, a series of tests every student must pass after graduation from high school to enter a Russian university or professional college. They have been promised free education in institutions of higher education in the Russian Federation if they pass.
“The goal of all these measures is the assimilation of Ukrainian youth. It is an issue of the ethnocide of Ukrainians and the suppression of self-determination," said the Center, which was set up by Ukraine’s armed forces to support and coordinate resistance.
In occupied Starobilsk, the Russian authorities are forcing parents to send their children aged six and above to a Cossack cadet corps.
“The children will be taught ‘proper patriotic education’ there,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a post on Facebook. “People who refuse to send their children to this squad are threatened with deprivation of parental rights.”
The Russian army attacked more than 30 settlements a day, firing more than 150 times on the positions of Ukrainian defenders, using tank weapons, rockets, and artillery along the entire line of contact.
In Orikhiv, one of the buildings of the local hospital was ruined as a result of the shelling.
Oleh Buriak, head of the Zaporizhzhia District State Administration, told Apostrophe TV that Russian forces continued to concentrate their manpower on the Zaporizhzhia front. “It’s not equipment, but rather people. In some areas, at night, they are checking our defense lines, and their sabotage and reconnaissance groups are working there,” he said. In the Kamianske, Stepnohirsk, and Polohy areas, the invaders are seeking to “understand where the minefields might be; they are trying to check where we might have weak defense lines and where they can find a gap. But there are no large-scale offensives,” he said.
On February 1, Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of occupied Melitopol, said 10 people had managed to get to Zaporizhzhia from the occupied territory, the first people this year who were able to do so. In January Russian forces refused to let people out. Fedorov said that since the beginning of the occupation of the city, the Russian occupiers have abducted at least 1,000 people from Melitopol.
The underground resistance continued its activities in Zaporizhzhia oblast. A car blew up in the occupied city of Enerhodar on the morning of February 3, killing Yevhen Kuzmin, a former Ukrainian policeman who went over to the side of the occupiers, according to Dmytro Orlov, the city’s mayor. Orlov warned residents of the city not to leave their houses that day, as the occupiers were “nervous and aggressive”.
In the city of Tokmak, the Russian forces were forcibly evicting civilians from their homes in order to accommodate local collaborators, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported. The people taking over the properties were “local collaborators who support the Russian occupation authorities and work as part of the enemy's so-called ‘law enforcement agencies’ in the city,” the general staff said. “The householders are ordered to leave their homes and move out onto the street.”
The Russian occupiers brought in personnel from the Kalinin Nuclear Power Plant to work at the occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Energoatom, which operates Ukraine’s nuclear reactors, said the Russians had promised new employees training on a full-scale simulator, but Ukrainian instructors, who were supposed to teach the new personnel, refused to cooperate with the occupiers. Because of this, they’ve been shut out of their workplaces.
Europe’s Edge is CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.