Ukraine Situation Report: Kyiv Pleads For Weapons As Putin Channels Peter The Great
The influx of Western artillery props Ukraine up against Russia’s onslaught but they are still outnumbered and outgunned.
Ukraine has received about 90 percent of the 155mm artillery systems it initially requested from NATO and other backers of its fight against Russia. Still, it needs more heavy weapons in the next two weeks to continue the war, according to Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.
“Ukraine desperately needs heavy weapons, and very fast,” Reznikov said in a June 9 speech. “We have already received, bought on the market, manufactured, and handed over to the Armed Forces of Ukraine a significant number of weapons. These numbers would have been enough for a victorious defense operation against any army in Europe. But not against Russia.”
Though Russia has made little progress in its massive overland assault on the Donbas region, Ukrainian troops are suffering heavy losses and are massively outgunned and outnumbered in the ongoing fighting. A new intelligence assessment from Ukrainian and Western agencies states Ukraine is outnumbered by 40-1 and outgunned 20-1 in terms of artillery, The Independent reported June 9.
Specifically, Reznikov called for more NATO-standard multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) with sufficient ammunition, replacement of Ukraine’s Soviet-era weapons and ammunition with more modern types used by NATO countries, and hundreds more heavy armored vehicles “without which effective counterattack is impossible.”
“It should be considered that Soviet equipment is mostly obsolete and needs to be prepared for combat,” Reznikov said. “Meanwhile, we are receiving only light armor from partners, not necessarily with weapons.”
Finally, Reznikov repeated the plea for fighter aircraft and missile defense systems that the Ukrainian leadership has clamored for since the outset of hostilities in February. He then thanked the world for its security assistance to date, rattling off the laundry list of weapons and vehicles that have flooded to Ukraine’s aid in the past three months.
Since the invasion, at least five types of 155mm artillery platforms have made it into service with Ukrainian Army units. The latest to arrive were Polish AHS Krab self-propelled tracked howitzers. M777 and FH70 towed howitzers, French-made CAESAR wheeled self-propelled guns, and M109A3 tracked cannon platforms are already fielded. A total of 150 artillery systems have reached Ukraine, Reznikov said. The remaining 10 percent of requested 155mm systems should be fielded within two weeks.
Ukraine has plenty of 155mm ammunition, as well. Reznikov said stockpiles are 10 percent higher than the amount of Soviet-era large-caliber shells on hand before the Feb. 24 invasion. Because the Western-supplied rounds are more accurate, fewer are used to greater effect.
Reznikov said Ukraine is fielding dozens of Soviet-era multiple-launch rocket systems for which it has tens of thousands of shells and is competing with Russia in supplying hundreds of tanks to frontline units engaged in the brutal fighting in the east and south.
About 250 armored vehicles from various Western countries are in Ukrainian service, including variants of the M113 armored personnel carrier, Australian Bushmaster mine-protected vehicles, British Mastiff armored wheeled vehicles, Husky wheeled tactical vehicles, Wolfhound heavy tactical support vehicles, and more, Reznikov said.
“And this is not to mention the MANPADS (Stinger, Starstreak, Mistral, Piorun, Grom etc.), ATGMs (NLAW, Javelin, Milan etc.) and grenade launchers (Panzerfaust, Carl Gustaf, AT4, RGW-90 HH / MATADOR etc.),” he said. “As you may well know, there are thousands of them.”
“This is not even close to a complete list,” Reznikov said. “It is too early to talk about certain other modern weapon systems. We will talk about them later. But the enemy will feel their effect on their own skin right now.”
Before diving into the latest news from Ukraine, refresh your knowledge of the very fluid situation on the ground with this previous post.
WARNING: Some of the updates below contain graphic material.
Reznikov may be right that Ukraine needs additional firepower to counter Russian forces chewing through its south and east. Despite horrendous battlefield losses and a campaign that has thus far failed to meet most of its stated goals for the conquest of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin is far from cowed. In a televised interview on Thursday, he likened himself to Peter the Great and his war to "return" Ukraine to Russia as a direct analogy for Peter's two-decade Great Northern War against Sweden at the beginning of the 18th century.
"Peter the Great waged the Great Northern War for 21 years. It would seem that he was at war with Sweden, he took something from them. He did not take anything from them, he returned (what was Russia's)," Putin said at a museum exhibition on the 350th anniversary of Tsar Peter's birth. ="Apparently, it also fell to us to return (what is Russia's) and strengthen (the country). And if we proceed from the fact that these basic values form the basis of our existence, we will certainly succeed in solving the tasks that we face."
Ukrainian troops need training to operate many of those 155mm artillery systems NATO countries are sending. They received that instruction from U.S. and Norwegian troops in Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany on the M109A3 self-propelled howitzer. Photos of Norwegian troops training their Ukrainian counterparts with hand-drawn instructional aids popped up recently. They include handwritten notes on the engine type: 2-stroke V8, 450 horsepower; the kind of fuel: diesel; and notations for the various forward and reverse gears of the tracked vehicle.
It has been two weeks since U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin publicly thanked the Czech Republic for promising attack helicopters to Ukraine. It appears that those Czech Mi-24/35 Hind helicopters are being prepped for transfer to Ukrainian service.
Battlefield communication systems on both sides of the war are prime targets for indirect fire if the signals emitted can be traced by opposing forces. The Russians have suffered for using unencrypted commercial technologies that the Ukrainians can both listen in on and target. Similar concerns surround the fielding by Ukraine of the SpaceX Starlink satellite communication terminals, but a new report in Politico says those systems are paying dividends on the battlefield. Starlink terminals have been used to coordinate artillery fire, position unmanned aerial systems to drop bombs, pass orders from commanders to troops, and allow those troops to keep in touch with family, Politico reports.
The War Zone plans to dive deeper into the advantages and risks of fielding this emerging commercial satellite communication system in combat and the advent of strictly military derivatives.
A T-72M1, the export version of the ubiquitous Soviet-era T-72 main battle tank, has turned up in Ukrainian Army service. The tank was refurbished by Bulgarian company Apolo Engineering, but Bulgaria has not announced any tank deliveries to Ukraine, which under the Soviet Union would not have received T-72s configured for export. Either Bulgaria slid Ukraine some tanks under the radar, or this T-72M1 came through a third party, like Poland.
Speaking of tanks, yet another spectacular explosion of a Russian main battle tank was caught on a drone camera. This one was destroyed by artillery fire from the Ukrainian 54th Mechanized Brigade near Marinka, Donetsk Oblast.
The unrelenting brutality of such strikes on Russian tanks has resulted in some creative junkyard solutions to protecting vehicles from anti-armor weapons. This most recent head-scratcher shows a Russian tank with metal baskets filled with gravel hung from the hull, apparently as added protection against incoming missiles. The value of such improvised armor against modern anti-tank weapons is doubtful.
More video of Russian strikes on Ukrainian forces has begun to emerge, suggesting Russian forces' increased use of unmanned aircraft to monitor their long-range indirect fire. In a unique video posted to Twitter on June 9, footage from what appears to be a drone captures a strike by a KUB-BLA loitering munition on a Ukrainian position in the Bakhmut area.
Another Russian UAS filmed a multiple-launch rocket system attack on a Ukrainian 2S7 Pion 203mm tracked artillery vehicle in the Bakhmut area.
So flooded with man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) and other air defense systems in eastern Ukraine that both sides are flying jets and helicopters as low to the ground and as fast as possible, as this video of an Mi-8 helicopter jammed with Ukrainian troops on their way to the frontlines shows.
A compilation of Russian aircraft that emerged Thursday shows Russian air force fighters and Russian army helicopters flying all manner of missions over Ukraine. Another offers a cockpit view of a Ka-52 lobbing rockets at random targets.
Ukraine’s air force remains in the fight. Some jets have been damaged and flown back into battle with new parts cannibalized from out-of-service and donated aircraft carcasses. Others have been painted in bright patriotic colors in defiance of Russian air defenses.
Ukrainian troops continue to jury-rig commercial drones to drop bombs on enemy positions. The tactic is relatively effective against soft targets like personnel and unarmored vehicles. It also has a profound psychological effect on enemy soldiers, who cannot see or hear the drones if flown high enough. They are also difficult to shoot down or defend against.
In a weird echo of the World War I Zimmerman Telegram proposing that Mexico join forces with Germany and the Axis Powers, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on Thursday invited Russian troops into his country later this year. Russian state television host Olga Skabeeva said "It's time for Russia to roll out something powerful closer to the American city upon a hill." It should be noted that Ortega signed an order extending permission for the presence of foreign military contingents that in addition to Russia, includes "forces, naval and air vessels" of Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, El Salvador, and the United States. Regardless, this rhetoric is designed to evoke the Cuban Missile Crisis and the fear of Russia weaponizing its allegiances in the western hemisphere.
We will continue to update this post with new information until we state otherwise.
Contact the author: Dan@thewarzone.com
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