- The Kremlin pledged to do everything it could to protect Belgorod from Ukrainian attacks on Tuesday.
- That promise led some Russians to call for a 9-mile buffer zone along its border with Ukraine.
- But the military operation required is almost impossible, per Institute for the Study of War analysts.
Russians want a nine-mile “buffer zone” along the border with Ukraine to protect them from raids, but it’s an almost impossible request, according to military experts.
Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War said in an update on Tuesday that Russians had called for that zone after Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov pledged to do everything to protect the region of Belgorod from further Ukrainian attacks.
The region has suffered from a series of cross-border raids, including as recently as last week.
Russian authorities have so far failed to announce plans to protect it.
The ISW said that Russian sources were reviving calls for a large-scale Russian offensive in Kharkiv to create this buffer zone, despite “the military’s likely inability to conduct an operation to seize significant territory in Kharkiv Oblast in the near term.”
One Telegram account quoted by the ISW said the border must be pushed back significantly, while another said a large exclusion zone of up to 15 kilometers, or about 9 miles, deep inside Kharkiv Oblast is needed to prevent Ukrainian long-range attacks.
Russian ultranationalists urged something similar last summer, citing public dissatisfaction with cross-border raids by pro-Ukrainian forces, the ISW said.
However, building such a zone along several hundred kilometers of the border is likely doomed to fail, the ISW said.
It would require a “far larger” and “significantly better” equipped force than what Russia now has positioned along the front lines with Ukraine, it said.
Russian forces, as well as their Ukrainian counterparts, are already struggling to make any significant breakthroughs because of how scattered they are along the 745-mile front line, the UK Ministry of Defence said in November.
Russian forces are also yet to advance into Kharkiv, though a Russian grouping stationed there “appears more well-suited to conduct an intensified offensive effort than elsewhere in Ukraine or along the international border,” the ISW said.
Right now, the ISW assessed that Russian troops would only be able to carry out “tactical-level actions,” meaning they could engage in battles in Kharkiv Oblast from Belgorod but with no guarantee of success.