Opinion

14 June, 01:10 PM

Not enough weapons. What is happening in the hottest spots on the front

Tom Cooper

Austrian aerial warfare analyst and historian

After three months of the war, the shortage of artillery ammunition and artillery caliber 122mm is severely felt not only on the Russian but now on the Ukrainian side, too.

On the Russian side, this shortage became widespread already the last month and then so much so, that multiple Russian proxies' artillery units are inactive for weeks already.

The RFA is rushing to re-arm them with old D-20s caliber 152mm, but these are frequently misfiring: what a surprise, considering both guns and their shells are 40+ years old…

Ukraine was critically short of artillery ammunition in general, already before the war.

Urgent acquisitions (from Bulgaria, for example) have only partially solved the problem: ‘everybody’ (see: all the possible NATO-related governments and other instances) scrambled to purchase more, since 24 February, but after three months of war there is ever less left to deliver.

Unavailingly, this is going to make deliveries of 155mm artillery munition to Ukraine an ever-bigger issue. If nothing else, this is ‘easier to get — even if far more expensive — because there are so many manufacturers of it; no, not so much in the USA and the EU, but all the way from Chile, via South Africa, to Singapore, Japan, and Australia…

In the aftermath of Kyiy and Warsaw signing a deal for the delivery of Krab self-propelled howitzers caliber 155mm, there are lots of reports about Ukrainians already using ‘a lots of Krabs’. Indeed, even the Russians began claiming them for destruction. Actually, out of some 54 said to have been delivered by now, only one battalion (approx. 18) has reached the frontline, and what the Russians claimed as ‘destroyed Krabs’ were old 2S1 Gvozdikas…

Air

On 8 June, the Keystone Cops claimed to have targeted a military base in the Zhytomyr Oblast, ‘used for training of foreign mercenaries, and their ‘high precision missiles’ to have destroyed one Osa AKM (SA-8) SAM-system in the Razdolivka area.

Apparently, on that day they deployed quite a few Iskanders to strike targets along the frontline, so also in Slovyansk and Severodonetsk.

On 9 June, Ukrainians claimed that one of their interceptors shot down an incoming Russian missile over Romenskyi district, in the Sumy region (photos of missile wreckage were released, so I consider this one as ‘confirmed’).

During the night from 9 to 10 June, VKS Tu-22M-3s have fired Kh-22s at Kharkiv, Dnipro, perhaps even at Kryviy Rih.

The Keystone Cops claimed to have targeted the Dnipro airport and destroyed ‘Ukrainian air force equipment’. Another such strike should have destroyed ‘production facilities of an enterprise rebuilding AFU weapons and military equipment in Kharkiv.

Whether they actually hit something of that kind is unclear: local Ukrainian authorities are reporting ‘only’ wounded between civilians, while one of the factories in Dnipro caught fire for other reasons, not because of Russian air strikes.

On 10 June, the Keystone Cops claimed to have intercepted and shot down four Tockha-U ballistic missiles fired by Ukraine, including this one over Donetsk.

Moreover, the pro-Russian separatists are generally complaining about ‘random Ukrainian shelling of civilians in Donetsk: well, actually, Ukrainians are targeting quite specific targets there, like this stadium in Stakhanov that was used as a base for Wagner mercenaries.

Reportedly, there were numerous casualties (some say up to 250–300). Ah yes, the last few days the VKS claimed to have shot down three jets of the Ukrainian Air Force (which, permit me to remind you: was ‘completely destroyed’ back in March and April): 1 Su-25 near Mazanovka, on 8 June (by air defenses), 1 Su-25 near Dovhenke, in the Kharkiv Oblast, and 1 MiG-29 near Ingulets, in the Dnipro oblast, on 9 June.

As usual, nothing in support of such claims was released. But nevermind: VKS fighter-bombers have ‘hit’ 46 ‘areas of AFU manpower and equipment concentrations’, killing 150 and destroying 6 tanks….

I love it when Konashenkov knows the score as if playing a video game…But hey: BPTM Terminators look so cool, so let's distract everybody with a photo of one. Everybody knows the people have a memory of the fish…

Battle of Donbas

Kharkiv…well, whatever the Russians might have attacked and captured there, early this week, was at least reversed — if it was ever actually captured. On the contrary, it’s Ukrainians that are meanwhile pushing northwards on either side of Vesele towards the Russian border.

Moreover, Ukrainians retained — perhaps even slightly expanded — the area they control around Ternove, and their bridgehead east of Staryi Saltiv is holding firmly (though the latter is no surprise: the Russians have only a battered BTG of the 27th Independent Guards Moto Rifle Brigade on the other side…).

It turned out that Dovhenke remains under Ukrainian control, after all. Instead, the last four days, heavy fighting was reported from the Bohorodichne, which seems to be under heavy Russian artillery barrages and ground assaults. ‘However’, Zhidko’s troops seem unable of doing more in that area. Indeed, a few kilometers east, and south of Sviatohirsk, the RFA should have taken Tetyanivka, on the southern side of Siversky Donets, back on 8 June, but even this attack seems to have been repelled.

In other words, for the time being, the Russian offensive was stalled — probably due to heavy losses. Ukrainian lines are holding firm in the Raihorodok area, too: nevertheless, evacuation of the population of Slovyansk was initiated because the town is under repeated missile strikes and artillery barrages.

Severodonetsk… despite Ukrainian announcements about a ‘huge wave’ of Ukrainian attacks, and despite Western reports about the Russians ‘rolling back’ all Ukrainians have captured since their counterattack on 3 June, the battle there remains a back-and-forth: even the Russians (who have counterattacked with fresh forces from the LNR) are meanwhile — grudgingly — admitting they do not have the town under control. Arguably, the last two days Ukrainians said they have withdrawn back to the Industrial Zone.

 However, even the Russians are reporting the control over ‘only’ the north-eastern side of the town and not (yet?) having recovered villages south of it (like Metolkine and Borivske).

 Most likely, neither side controls the center of Severodonetsk — which, considering descriptions provided by involved Ukrainian troops is no surprise: the town is meanwhile under continuous, and vicious Russian artillery fire and sustained air strikes

(which, apparently, are beginning to impress ever more Western observers… note for records: guess, its time for another analysis of VKS operations).

The same is valid for eastern Lysychansk, too. Overall, there is no doubt the situation in Severodonetsk remains critical, even more so because there is no end to reports about a shortage of artillery ammunition for nearby Ukrainian artillery units. In this regard, it cannot be stressed often enough: the situation along the T1302 road further south is decisive for the future…

Popasna Bulge…the T1302 road remains safely in Ukrainian hands. Indeed, it appears the Russians ceased trying to push in its direction and instead have concentrated on pushing in the north-eastern and southern direction, for the last 2–3 days. The primary target became Toshkivka, attacked because it might enable the Russians to encircle Hirske and Zolote, held still held by the Ukrainian Territorial Defence.

The Russians seem to have secured most of Toshkivka, on 6 and 7 June and then attacked westwards: one attack was defeated on 8 June, and another on 9 June. On the other side of that effort, the RFA and Separatists seem to have managed to force Ukrainians out of Komyshuvakha (this achievement is celebrated in the Russian social media as if they’ve conquered Kharkiv….).

South

The counterattack of the 7th VDV Division on the Ukrainian bridgehead in Davydiv Brid did recover a part of that village, but the rest was repelled and Ukrainians are, finally, reporting advances in southern and south-eastern direction… or at least their troops are in Bruskynske and Kostromka, plus in the process of liberating (what is left of) Davydiv Brid.

More importantly, after the 28th Brigade and the local TD unit reported a successful counterbattery operation in the Kherson region, since 9 June there are reports about Ukrainians launching a major counteroffensive along the entire width of the frontlines in the Kherson area.

First reports are indicating the liberation of more than 20 villages. Major attacks seem to be south of Mykolaivka (which was liberated) towards Ivanivka, from Zarichne (also liberated) towards Akrhanhelske, and south of Blahodatne (liberated).

That said, there are lots of reports about ‘improved Russian artillery survivability’, ‘severe electronic warfare hindering operations of Ukrainian UAVs’, and ‘effective counter-battery fire’, and these ‘hindering Ukrainian advance.

On the contrary, the Keystone Cops in Moscow are zip-lip about their 49th CAA being under vicious assault on almost the entire length of its frontline. It’s unimportant, apparently, and thus they are only reporting some kind of their own attack on Olksandrivka south of Kherson: turns out that peninsula is still under Ukrainian control…

Finally, the situation in the Zaporizhzhya Oblast is unclear: Western intel assessments are calling the activity there ‘very limited’.

However, Ukrainians are reporting that the RFA has abandoned numerous forward positions, and even pulled back on multiple points. Indeed, there are reports about Ukrainians advancing by 5–10 kilometers in several directions.

 Just: nobody would say exactly where or provide any kind of evidence in favor of one or the other version…

 That all said — and mind: it’s perfectly possible that it’s much too early to say, actually — my overall impression is: that the pendulum has (already) swung…

This column was first published by Medium. NV is republishing it with permission from the author. 

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