Ukraine is running out of ammo and taking heavy casualties

AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd

The war increasingly looks like a straightforward contest to see which side will collapse first. The horrendous casualties taken by the Russian in close-quarters fighting around Kiev combined with promises of massive western military aid for Ukraine seemed unsustainable for Putin’s army, making them a likely loser.


But now that the war has shifted to the east and become a long-range slugfest in open terrain, the forecast has shifted. Unable to match the range of Putin’s artillery, it’s the Ukrainians who are taking horrendous casualties while Russian soldiers remain out of reach. One advisor to Zelensky told reporters this week that around 150 Ukrainian troops are dying each day and another 800 are being wounded. That’s a thousand men off the battlefield every 24 hours among a total force of maybe 500,000. And not just any men: Their troops in the east have combat experience. Replacing those soldiers with new conscripts isn’t a one-to-one substitution.

As for those promises of western weapons:

“[E]very day that Western heavy-weapons supplies are delayed is measured in hundreds of Ukrainian casualties,” sources told the WSJ. The west may have done just enough to support the war without actually preventing Ukrainian defeat. What was the point of extending this conflict only to let the battle for the Donbas turn into a turkey shoot for the Russians?

Even if the Ukrainians had the artillery they need to match Russia, they don’t have the ammunition:

“The Russians are using long-range artillery against us, often without any response, because we don’t have the means,” he said. “They can attack from dozens of kilometers away and we can’t fire back. We know all the coordinates for all their important targets, but we don’t have the means to attack.”

Ukraine has now almost completely run out of ammunition for the Soviet-era weapons systems that were the mainstay of its arsenal, and the Eastern European countries that maintained the same systems have run out of surplus supplies to donate, Danylyuk said. Ukraine urgently needs to shift to longer-range and more sophisticated Western systems, but those have only recently been committed, and in insufficient quantities to match Russia’s immense firepower, he said.

Russia is firing as many as 50,000 artillery rounds a day into Ukrainian positions, and the Ukrainians can only hit back with around 5,000 to 6,000 rounds a day, he said. The United States has committed to deliver 220,000 rounds of ammunition — enough to match Russian firepower for around four days.


The Russian strategy is simple but effective: Shell literally everything, and keep shelling until the resistance in front of you crumbles. Then move forward.

“They destroy everything and walk in,” said one Ukrainian soldier to WaPo of how the Russians are advancing. Russia had no choice but to try to reduce its daily casualties after the bloodbath of the first two months of the war and the mismatch in long-range weaponry is just what the doctor ordered, allowing slow and cautious advances that keep Russian supply lines short. If we don’t get more artillery to hit back soon, Ukrainian sources told the Journal, Russia will complete its conquest of the Donbas and get to take a much-needed breather. From there, they could menace southwestern Ukrainian cities like Odessa or take another stab at overrunning Kharkiv — or, down the road, even the capital. “If Russia prevails in the battle of Donbas, it will mean that Ukraine loses not only land but perhaps the bulk of its most capable military forces, opening the way for Moscow to grab more territory and dictate its terms to Kyiv,” the AP reports.


The Ukrainians are being brutalized. But that brings us to the other side of the equation: How long can the Russians keep this up? More from the Journal:

“I do believe that by the end of this calendar year the Ukrainian forces are going to drive the Russian forces back to the Feb. 23 line,” said retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, a former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe who is now with the Center for European Policy Analysis. But to achieve this, he said, Ukraine must get enough Western long-range artillery and rocket systems, as well as the necessary ammunition. “If we fail to do that…then this is going to go on for potentially years,” Gen. Hodges said…

Unlike Ukraine, which can count on weapons supplies from the West, Russia has limited ability to replenish its stocks, especially as its military industry is hampered by Western sanctions. In recent weeks, the Russian military has started to send into battle obsolete T-62 tanks because so many of its more modern tanks have been destroyed by Ukrainian artillery and drones. “I believe that the Russians are actually exhausted,” Gen. Hodges said.

One senior western military official claims that the Russian effort “continues to be deeply troubled at all levels,” that they’re basically improvising in the field and spending weeks trying to take individual villages, and that this summer they could reach the “point where they can no longer effectively generate offensive combat power.” That’s the great mystery of the war at the moment. Between the heavy casualties they’ve taken and the hardships imposed by western sanctions, how close are the Russians to breaking down? They’re not just running low on men, they’re running low on materiel. Can they even replace the equipment they’re losing with western supply chains closed off to them?


Between Russia’s logistical problems and the west’s growing reluctance about arming Ukraine, you wonder if the two sides will be fighting this winter with spears and arrows.

In lieu of an exit question, read this Times story about several devastating attacks by the Ukrainians on Russian forces behind enemy lines, one of which may have killed as many as 200 Russian troops. That’s further evidence that there might be a Ukrainian insurgency developing in Russian-occupied areas, as the coordinates of the Russian targets were reportedly fed to Ukrainian troops in this case by the resistance. But the Times piece contains another interesting detail, the fact that Arab forces were apparently among those killed in the Ukrainian artillery strikes. That’s further evidence of how desperate Putin is to replenish manpower. He may have some troops on loan from Assad.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on HotAir Videos