Ukrainian forces are finally seeing the impact of Western weapons on the front lines of the war with Russia, Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said.
Experts say that while Western equipment has been crucial in repelling Russian forces, the West will need to increase its supplies, and even mobilize its own defense industries, if it is to avoid a war of attrition that Ukraine could to lose.
During his nightly televised address, Zelenskiy said that thanks to Western supplies, Ukrainian forces were advancing in two directions in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine’s southern front and dealing blows to Russia by hitting some of its logistics warehouses.
“To finish, [Ukraine] believes that the Western artillery is working very powerfully,” he said, adding that it had “inflicted very noticeable hits on warehouses and other important points for [Russia’s] logistics.” He said the Ukrainian strikes had “significantly reduced the offensive potential of the Russian military.”
Vladimir Putin fired back, saying that if the West wanted to defeat Russia on the battlefield, it was welcome to try.
In televised remarks to parliamentary leaders, the Russian president said: “Today we learn that they want to defeat us on the battlefield. What can you say, let them try. We have heard many times that the West wants to fight us to the last Ukrainian. It is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but it seems that everything is heading towards this.
Ukrainian forces have released video of what they say was a successful attack on a Russian ammunition warehouse in occupied eastern Ukraine. They did not reveal the exact location.
“The first kind of equipment the West supplied to Ukraine was equipment that didn’t have complex supply chain issues,” said Jack Watling, senior fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, making reference to the equipment that the Ukrainians would not need training in. or need spare parts for.
He said that since the first emergency supplies, Ukraine had asked its allies for any equipment they were willing to donate. Western governments then provided equipment “on a piecemeal basis”, he said, “what they have available and what they think [they] can pass the baton without stripping their own strength too much”.
The result is that Ukraine has a wide range of pieces of equipment that require their own ammunition, spare parts and training process, Watling said. This created short-term problems for the Ukrainian command and, along with the logistics needed to get equipment to the Ukrainian front, led to delays and low availability.
“What we’ve seen over the past few weeks is a recognition from countries that there needs to be more systemic support, so we’ve seen countries deliver more systems than they’ve previously delivered as well than Himars,” Watling said, referring to US-supplied rocket launchers.
“And that makes a tactical difference, but Ukraine still has to manage multiple supply chains, relatively small fleets of many different systems, and available ammunition is very limited.”
Watling said NATO’s limited ammunition stocks meant the West would have to marshal its own defense industry if it was to continue supporting Ukraine’s military and avoid a protracted war of attrition.
Serhiy Kuzan, chairman of the Ukrainian Center for Security and Cooperation in Kyiv, said Ukraine noticed a difference on the front line as soon as the Himars and howitzers arrived. “It allows us to participate in what is an artillery duel,” he said. “And with the longer range rockets, we destroyed more than 20 Russian artillery warehouses and that slowed down the Russian offensive. They have to be more careful.”
Kuzan said that so far Western supplies have not given Ukraine a decisive moment in the war, as Russia still has more artillery and ammunition than Ukraine. “But now we’re not just trying to survive their bombs and rockets, but we’re hitting their warehouses. Russia uses so much artillery ammunition that it needs big supply bases, so it’s become our main objective.
Ivan Sechin, a military expert and former Ukrainian and Soviet military intelligence official, said strikes by Western weapons against Russian bases had done as much to demoralize Russian forces as they had destroyed their logistics.
In several videos released by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Russian soldiers can be seen fleeing burning bases, which Sechin says has shaken their concept of where they are safe.
“It’s definitely having an effect because they keep attacking but not at the same pace as before,” Sechin said. “But with the current supplies, Ukraine can only contain them and does not have the capacity to launch significant counter-offensives. The West is still worried about provoking Russia, but it must see that the Russian military is not as powerful as once thought. They present their small victories [in the east] like a big win.
Russian forces have killed at least seven civilians and injured others in the past 24 hours in battle-scarred Donetsk, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said. Kramatorsk, Ukraine’s de facto administrative center in Donetsk, was struck by Russia on Thursday, Agence France-Presse reported, killing at least one civilian and injuring several others.
Although shelling continues in eastern Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said Moscow may be taking an “operational pause”.
“Russian forces are likely to confine themselves to relatively small-scale offensive actions as they attempt to create conditions for larger offensive operations and rebuild the combat power necessary to attempt these more ambitious undertakings,” the statement said. institute.
The Russian Defense Ministry appeared to confirm this assessment in a statement on Thursday, saying its units had time to rest in order to “recover their combat capabilities”.