From: Utlima Thule
September – December 1943
Reaching the Dvina and Dneipr had effectively ended the Soviet summer offensive. Apart from the fighting on the Berezina, the long front lay quiet apart from isolated Soviet attempts to test the German defenses.
(Shows the front line as of 30 September 1943)
Stavka used the lull in part to pull exhausted formations into reserve and also for a massive redeployment of the Red Army. A number of Fronts were renamed to reflect their roles in the upcoming offensive. In addition the Bryansk Front was scrapped, having been blamed for the Chernigov disaster.
Most of Bryansk Front was drawn into Stavka reserve but 40 Army was allocated to the new 3rd Ukrainian Front and 28 Army to the Volkhov Front.
In addition, more formations were awarded Guards Army status. 1 Baltic Front's 24 Army became the 2 Guards Army and North Caucasus Front's 37 and 38 Armies became the 3 and 4 Guards respectively. Stavka allocated additional mobile and artillery assets to these elite formations. In addition, in late November, a fresh tank Army (7 TA) was mobilised.
However, while some Soviet commanders were promoted as a reward for their successes, unexplained car crashes continued to be a feature of life (or more accurately, death) in the Red Army.
As a result of the lull in combat operations, the Soviet rail heads had been brought up to the new front lines, easing supply and preparations for the next offensive.
In addition, to allowing formations to resupply and rest, Stavka started to re-equip the main tank formations. Even upgraded to the KV-85, the existing heavy tanks were no longer effective in their primary function and the T-34/76 was increasingly out-gunned. The first major innovation was the new IS-1 with a better engine and armour than the KV but still using the 85mm gun. It was deployed to a few units to test its effectiveness and speedily replaced with the IS-2 and its 122mm main gun.
(IS-1 undergoing field trials)
However, Soviet preparations for the coming offensives were not just about troop deployments or new tanks. For the first time since 1941, the partisan war was seen as a priority and substantial amounts of supply and NKVD sabotage squads were sent behind the German lines.
(poster reads: Glory to the Partisan Heroes)
(Partisan attack in the Pripyet region)
The Soviet plan split the battlefield to the north and south of the Pripyet. The northern offensive was code-named Kutusov and the offensive in the Ukraine, Suvorov.
To the north, the main formations were based around highly experienced rifle corps backed by artillery. To the south, Stavka had brought together 11,200 tanks and self-propelled guns compared to just 3,900 to the north.
Despite the very different orders of battles, the Soviet plan was essentially similar on both sectors.
To the north, 1 and 2 Baltic and the Western Fronts were ordered to attack towards Minsk. This was a continuation of the offensive that had started in September and it was hoped would draw off the German reserves in an attempt to protect the shortest route to Berlin. If either the Germans pulled back, or over-committed, Volkhov Front would strike across the Dauga in an attempt to cut off the German retreat and liberate Lithuania.
To the south, 1 and 4 Ukrainian and North Caucasus Front were ordered to cross the Dneipr and try to cut off the axis forces in the Dneipr bend as well as try to outflank Kiev to the south. 3 Ukrainian Front was then to cut through the weak German defenses in the eastern Pripyet and try to encircle the German forces at Kiev.
Each sector also had fronts assigned to an essentially defensive role. Leningrad Front had 3 armies screening the Finnish front and would cover the western flank of Volkhov Front. In the centre, the Stavka reserve and the Bielorrussian front would cover the gap between Western and 3 Ukrainian Fronts. In the far south, the weak Trans-Caucasus and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts would protect the flank of the main assault force and try to slow the expected retreat of the Romanian and Hungarian forces on that sector.
Even with the rivers frozen, it was expected that each front would face strong resistance at the start of the offensive. Careful identification and study of the German deployment indicated one primary target for each front where it was hoped that the Soviets could gain a secure bridgehead. Once the infantry were over the river, armoured and cavalry forces would be committed to exploitation.
 – My logic is that this won't do more than inconvenience the Germans but a lucky break at a critical spot may well slow their ability to shift reserves. Also by concentrating on the rail lines in the Pripyet region I am adding to the problems the Germans already have with any north-south troop movements.