Despite the weapons of the West, Ukraine is under-armed in the East

BAKHMUT, Ukraine – Despite the massive influx of weapons from the West, Ukrainian forces are being overtaken by the Russians in the battle for the eastern region of Donbass, where fighting is largely taking place through artillery exchanges.

While the Russians can sustain heavy and continuous fire for hours at a time, the defenders cannot match the enemy in weapons or ammunition and must use their ammunition more wisely.

Entrenched in a bombed-out house in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian troops keep a careful count of their ammunition, using a door as a sort of ledger. Scribbled in chalk on the door are numbers of mortar shells, smoke shells, shell shells and flares.

At the outpost in eastern Ukraine, dozens and dozens of mortar shells are stacked. But troop commander Mykhailo Strebizh lamented that if his fighters were to endure an intense artillery barrage, their cache would amount to, at best, only about four hours of return fire.

Ukrainian officials say Western support for the country is not enough and is not arriving on the battlefield fast enough for this crushing and highly deadly phase of the war.

While Russia has kept silent about its war casualties, Ukrainian authorities say up to 200 of their soldiers die every day. Russian forces are slowly gaining ground in the east, but experts say they are suffering heavy casualties.

Experts note that aid deliveries have not kept pace with Ukraine’s needs, in part because defense industries are not producing weapons fast enough.

“We are moving from peacetime to wartime,” said Francois Heisbourg, senior adviser to the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research think tank. “Peacetime means low production rates, and increasing the production rate means you have to build industrial facilities first. … This is a defense industrial challenge that is of very great magnitude.”

The Kiel Institute for the World Economy in Germany reported last week that the United States had honored about half of its military support commitments to Ukraine, and Germany about a third. Both Poland and Britain kept their promises.

Many infantrymen say they cannot even begin to match the Russians shot for shot, or shell for shell.

Ukrainian filmmaker-turned-fighter Volodymyr Demchenko tweeted a video expressing his gratitude for the guns sent by the Americans, saying, “These are nice guns and 120 bullets each.” But he lamented: “It’s like 15 minutes of fighting.”

Part of the problem is also that Ukrainian forces, whose country was once a member of the Soviet Union, are more familiar with Soviet-era weaponry and must first be trained on NATO equipment than they receive.

Countless Ukrainians have traveled abroad to train on Western weapons.

Only a little over a third of the US$1 billion pledge will be Pentagon-ready, fast delivery, and the rest will be available in the longer term. The pledge, which includes 18 howitzers and 36,000 rounds for them, responds to Ukraine’s call for more longer-range weapons.

This is still far from what the Ukrainians want – 1,000 155mm howitzers, 300 multiple rocket launchers, 500 tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles and 1,000 drones – as tweeted President Volodymyr Zelensky’s adviser Mikhail Podolyak, last week, before the last major Western debate. pledges.

“What the Ukrainians have to do is conduct what the military tends to call a counter-battery operation” to respond to Russian artillery fire, said Ben Barry, former director of the general staff of British Army and Senior Fellow for Land Warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “To do that, you need accurate weapons with a high rate of fire and a range that allows them to stay clear of the artillery on the other side.”

“The Ukrainians say they don’t have enough long-range rockets to adequately suppress Russian artillery,” he said. “I think they’re probably right.”

As things stand, Ukrainian fighters often have to use “shoot and dash” tactics – shoot, then move before the Russians can focus on them.

Better NATO hardware, even in small quantities, is often welcome.

On a nearby front on Saturday, a Ukrainian unit granted the Associated Press rare access to fire US-supplied M777 howitzers – 155mm towable weapons – at Russian positions.

A lieutenant who uses the Wasp call sign praised the M777’s accuracy, firing speed, ease of use and ease of camouflage, saying the new hardware “lifts our spirits” and ” demoralizes the enemy because he sees the consequences”. are.”

Denys Sharapov, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister for Procurement, told a publication of the US-based National Defense Industrial Association that the weapons systems received only cover 10-15% of the country’s needs. . He noted the scale of the challenge – a front line with 620 miles of active combat.

Interviewed by National Defense magazine in an article published on June 15, Sharapov said that no supplier alone could meet Ukraine’s needs.

The friends of Ukraine are committed for the long term.

Time may be on Ukraine’s side, experts say. Ukrainian fighters are motivated and mobilized – all men in the country of 40 million people have been called up to fight, while Russia has so far avoided a call for conscripts.

As for how long those fights might go on, Heisbourg said a year-long war of attrition is “very possible.”

Information for this article was provided by Srdjan Nedeljkovic of The Associated Press.

FILE – Debris hangs from a residential building heavily damaged in a Russian bombardment in Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, May 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, File)
Photo FILE – People walk past part of a rocket stuck in the ground in Lysychansk, Lugansk region, Ukraine, Friday, May 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Leo Correa, File)
Photo FILE – French President Emmanuel Macron, left, talks to arms industrialists near a CAESAR self-propelled howitzer artillery system as they visit the Eurosatory Land Defense and Security Exhibition and aeroterrestrials, at the Paris-Nord Villepinte exhibition center in Villepinte, north of Paris, Monday, June 13, 2022. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP, File)
Photo FILE – A Ukrainian tank stands in position during heavy fighting on the front line in Severodonetsk, Lugansk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak, File)
Photo FILE – In this image provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walk in the square where damaged Russian military vehicles are displayed in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday June 17, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP, file)
Photo FILE – Shells used by a Ukrainian artillery unit are stored in a house in a village near the frontline in the Donetsk Oblast region of eastern Ukraine on Thursday, June 2 2022. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue, File)
Photo FILE – Ukrainian soldiers fire at Russian positions from a US-supplied M777 howitzer in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine on Saturday, June 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky , Queue)
Photo FILE – Ukrainian military officials move the bodies of slain Russian soldiers into a refrigerator in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, June 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko, File)
Photo FILE – Commander of a Ukrainian army artillery unit, Mykhailo Strebizh, center, inside a house destroyed due to shelling in a village near the front line in the region of Donetsk Oblast, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, June 2, 2022. (AP Photo/ Bernat Armangue, File)

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