Military experts have highlighted the rapid rate of artillery and ammunition consumption in the ongoing conflict cannot be sustained by either side for any significant amount of time. NATO and US modelling and simulations officer Alex Vershinin, who also holds 10 years of frontline experience in Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan, recently noted in the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) that “the rate of ammunition and equipment consumption in Ukraine can only be sustained by a large-scale industrial base”.
Given the significance of these resources, ammunition depots have become key targets in the war across Ukraine.
Kyiv’s Operational Command “South” today reported it killed 30 Russian soldiers and destroyed two ammunition depots along with military vehicles.
The Kyiv Independent reported: “Russian fighter jets tried to repel one of the attacks on an ammunition depot by firing missiles at the Ukrainian Air Force planes.
“Ukrainian aviation had no losses, but Russian missiles killed a civilian in Bashtanka and destroyed a boiler house, Ukraine’s military said.”
The number of daily fire missions conducted by Russia alone is estimated to have averaged 585 between May 19 and 31, according to the Russian Ministry of Defence.
A high of 735 were deployed on May 21.
Mr Vershinin added that Moscow’s forces were firing up to 7,176 artillery rounds a day.
These figures, he said, prove “the age of industrial warfare is still here”.
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Because of the consumption rate, one senior Western official late last month told the Washington Post Russia will soon be unable to keep hold of its gains in Ukraine.
They said: “There will come a time when the tiny advances Russia is making become unsustainable in light of the costs and they will need a significant base to regenerate capability.”
The paper added: “The ‘creeping’ advances are dependent almost entirely on the expenditure of vast quantities of ammunition, notably artillery shells, which are being fired at a rate almost no military in the world would be able to sustain for long.”
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The same problem is being suffered by Ukrainian forces, only more severely.
A report by intelligence officials from both Ukraine and the West last month revealed that Volodymyr Zelensky’s men are outgunned 20 to one in artillery and 40 to one in ammunition by Russia.
It noted the situation in which 100 people are dying every day in the Donbas alone is having “a seriously demoralising effect on Ukrainian forces as well as a very real material effect; cases of desertion are growing every week”.
Upon meeting Mr Zelensky for the second time in Kyiv since the beginning of the war, Boris Johnson said “we will be with you until you ultimately prevail”. Other Western nations have also expressed this sentiment.
But even the West is suffering shortages of supplies, with many countries having spent years (in some cases, decades) doing down their own forces.
The UK recently had to buy a howitzer from a third party to send to Ukraine because its own stockpiles were too low.
One Western defence adviser this month told the Financial Times: “The received wisdom has long been that the West will never fight an industrial war again. As a result, almost nobody has kept jump capacity to ramp up national production of key equipment.”