Ukraine forces finally seeing impact of western arms, says Zelenskiy | Ukraine

Ukrainian forces are finally seeing the impact of western weapons on the frontlines of the war with Russia, Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said.

Experts say while western equipment has been crucial for pushing back Russian forces, the west will need to scale up its supplies, and even mobilize its own defense industries, if it wants to avoid a war of attrition that Ukraine could lose.

During his nightly TV address, Zelenskiy said that thanks to western supplies, Ukrainian forces were advancing in two directions in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions on Ukraine’s southern front and dealing blows to Russia by hitting some of its logistics warehouses.

“Finally, [Ukraine] feels that western artillery is working very powerfully, ”he said, adding that it had“ inflicted very noticeable blows on warehouses and other points that are important for [Russia’s] logistics. ” He said the Ukrainian strikes had “significantly reduced the offensive potential of the Russian army”.

Vladimir Putin hit 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 hear 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. This is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but it seems that everything is heading towards this. ”

Ukrainian forces published a video of what they said was a successful strike on a Russian ammunition warehouse in occupied eastern Ukraine. They did not reveal the exact location.

“The first type of equipment that the west supplied to Ukraine was the equipment that did not have complex supply-chain issues,” said Jack Watling, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, referring to equipment Ukrainians would not need training on or need spare parts for.

He said that since the initial emergency supplies, Ukraine had asked its allies for any equipment they were willing to give. Western governments then provided equipment “piecemeal”, he said, “what they have available and what they think [they] can hand over without denuding their own forces too much ”.

The result is that Ukraine has a wide range of equipment pieces that require their own ammunition, spare parts and training processes, said Watling. This has created some short-term problems for Ukraine’s command and, along with the logistics of getting the equipment to Ukraine’s front, has caused delays and low availability.

“What we’ve seen in the past few weeks is a recognition from countries that there needs to be more systemic support, so we’ve seen countries deliver more of systems that they’ve previously delivered as well as Himars,” said Watling, referring to US-supplied rocket launchers.

“And this is making a tactical difference, but Ukraine still has to manage multiple supply chains, relatively small fleets of a lot of different systems, and the ammunition available is very limited.”

A US-supplied Himars multiple launch rocket system is fired from an undisclosed location in Ukraine
A US-supplied Himars multiple launch rocket system is fired from an undisclosed location in Ukraine. Photograph: Via Pavlo Narozhnyy / Reuters

Watling said NATO’s limited ammunition stocks meant the west would have to mobilize its own defense industry if it wanted to continue to support Ukraine’s military and avoid a protracted war of attrition.

Serhiy Kuzan, the chair of the Ukrainian Security and Cooperation Center in Kyiv, said Ukraine had noticed a difference on the front from the moment 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 have destroyed over 20 warehouses of Russian artillery and it has slowed Russia’s offensive. They are having to be more careful. ”

Kuzan said that so far western supplies had not given Ukraine a watershed moment in the war, as Russia still had more artillery pieces and ammunition than Ukraine. “But now we are not just trying to survive their bombs and rockets but hit their warehouses. Russia uses so much artillery ammunition they need large supplies bases, so this has now become our main aim. ”

Ivan Sechin, a military expert and former Ukrainian and Soviet military intelligence official, said western weapons’ blows against Russian bases had worked to demoralize the Russian forces as much as destroy their logistics.

In several videos published by the Ukrainian armed forces, Russian soldiers can be seen running from burning bases, which Sechin says would have shaken their conception of where they are safe.

“It’s clear that it is having an effect because they are continuing to attack but not at the same rate as before,” said Sechin. “But with current supplies, Ukraine can only hold them and does not have the ability to launch significant counteroffensives. The west are still worried about provoking Russia but they must see that the Russian army is not as powerful as we once thought. They are presenting their small wins [in the east] as a great victory. ”

Russian forces killed at least seven civilians and injured others in the last 24 hours throughout battle-scarred Donetsk, said the region’s governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko. Kramatorsk, Ukraine’s de-facto administrative center in Donetsk, was struck by Russia on Thursday, Agence France-Presse said, killing at least one civilian and injuring several others.

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Though shelling continues in eastern Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based thinktank, said Moscow may be taking an “operational break”.

“Russian forces will likely confine themselves to relatively small-scale offensive actions as they attempt to set conditions for more significant offensive operations and rebuild the combat power needed to attempt those more ambitious undertakings,” the institute said.

Russia’s defense ministry seemed to confirm that assessment in a statement on Thursday, saying its units were being given time to rest in order to “recover their combat capabilities”.

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