Ukrainian and Western intelligence officials paint a bleak picture of the situation in Donbass. Kyiv currently has no means of countering Russian artillery and other long-range weapons. The good morale of Kiev’s soldiers has also suffered from the Russian shelling.
A report by Ukrainian and Western intelligence officials quoted by the “Independent” assumes that the Ukrainian troops in Donbass are on the verge of collapse. The reason is the overwhelming superiority of the Russians in long-range weapons, i.e. artillery and tactical missiles. This superiority and the constant shelling eroded the troops’ morale and decimated the Ukrainian artillery. The report estimates that Russian forces have a 20-to-1 artillery superiority and a 40-to-1 ammunition superiority.
Soviet ammunition is exhausted
Ukrainian artillery suffers from breakdowns and from a glaring lack of ammunition. Supplies are depleted and it is becoming increasingly difficult to get supplies to the front bulge at Lysychansk. The rockets for the Soviet-era heavy multiple rocket launchers Smerch and Uragan are practically depleted. With them, Kyiv was able to fend off Russian offensives at distances of 60 to 80 kilometers. Now the maximum firing range is about 40 kilometers, that’s how far the conventional artillery of caliber 152/155 mm and the remaining smaller multiple launchers can carry.
The Russians attacked the remaining artillery in Kiev with weapons from far greater ranges. These are Uragan or Smerch type heavy multiple rocket launchers and Tochlk-U rockets with ranges of 80 kilometers. There are also tactical Iskander missiles with a range of 300 kilometers. While the Russian offensive quickly suffered from supply problems in the first phase, there is currently no sign of a lack of ammunition on the Russian side. The report goes on to say: “This creates a situation of absolute inequality on the battlefield, not to mention the complete dominance of enemy aircraft in the air, which can only sometimes be corrected by the use of the Stinger [surface-to-air missiles]. .” Western experts are currently counting 300 missions by the Russian air force over the spatially limited area every day.
Anti-tank missiles, supplied in large numbers, help the Ukrainians in direct combat, but they are powerless against distant artillery. Russian tactics are now to wear and wear down the Ukrainian troops with constant shelling. Ground fighting should only take place when the fighting power of the Ukrainian defenders in the zone has already suffered severely.
New picture of the secret services
The report is astonishing, since the previous intelligence information from Great Britain had painted a rather favorable picture for Kyiv and had mainly reported very high Russian losses. Now it says: “It is clear that a conventional war cannot be won if one’s own side has many times fewer weapons, one’s own weapons hit the enemy at a shorter distance and one has significantly less ammunition than the enemy.” The previously excellent combat readiness of the Ukrainian armed forces is now waning, the shelling has “a seriously demoralizing effect on the Ukrainian armed forces and a very real material effect; the cases of desertion are increasing every week”.
It is becoming increasingly clear that it was a mistake to initially supply Ukraine primarily with weapons from the Soviet era. Strictly speaking, these are leftovers that have already been or were about to be retired. There are only limited quantities of spare parts and ammunition left for these weapons from the Resterampe. Due to the longer conflict, it is now necessary to switch to Western weapons.
Prisoners put pressure on Kyiv
Another problem is the prisoners. A peculiarity of this war, which could already be seen in the fighting in 2014/15, is the exchange of prisoners while the fighting is still ongoing. Even the prominent Ukrainian fighters on Snake Island were quickly replaced.
But Kyiv can no longer trigger its own soldiers at a 1-to-1 ratio. Too many Ukrainians are captured and too few Russians. Kyiv is said to still have around 500 Russian soldiers, while Russia is holding more than 5,000 Ukrainian fighters captive. The intelligence report said: “The Russians are insisting on a one-for-one prisoner swap. This means that under the status quo, 4,500 Ukrainian prisoners could be held in Russian jails until a peace deal is reached. Moscow will likely use them as leverage to destabilize Ukraine internally.”
Should the Russians be able to encircle the Ukrainian forces at Lysychansk, relations will deteriorate further.
Hold out until August
If the new report is taken seriously, the situation in Donbass is very threatening. The already battered Ukrainian armed forces would have to hold out there until August. Then long-range missile weapons from the West will arrive in Ukraine with trained soldiers. Strictly speaking, one has to formulate: Then the influx will begin, these systems will not immediately be available in large numbers. The intelligence report does not comment directly on the outcome of the battle in Donbass, but formulates pessimistically “The enemy is encircling the Ukrainian forces concentrated in Severodonetsk and Lysychansk. It has become extremely difficult to defend these two cities, since the enemy has opened up the roads, 80 percent of which the supplies are transported under fire.”
At the same time, the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic announced the start of the battle for Sloviansk. This is currently an exaggeration, as the Russians have not even reached the outskirts of the city. But they are now approaching from several directions. There is a danger here that the front bulge around Severodonetsk and Lyssychansk further to the west, which is already threateningly indented, will be completely cut off.