Ukraine: Russian artillery prevailing over Ukrainian infantry

Ukraine: Russian artillery prevailing over Ukrainian infantry. By Jim Dunnigan.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February has failed so far, with enormous losses to Russia in terms of combat personnel, military equipment and the reputations for quality/reliability/effectiveness of Russian weapons and forces. …

One thing nearly all Russians agree on is that using nukes to avoid defeat in Ukraine is not going to happen. A majority of Russians now openly oppose the war even though Putin quickly created a law to make such public dissent illegal. … There are a growing number of anti-war demonstrations and physical attacks on military facilities, especially recruiting stations. Refusing to report when conscripted became more common.

Another form of defiance is veterans of the Ukraine fighting providing details, based on personal experience, of why Russian forces are failing. Many of these veterans are no longer in the military because they refused to renew their contracts. Many more soldiers remained in the army but refused to return to Ukraine and got away with it. … In any other country a soldier who refuses to fight during wartime is subject to severe punishment, often execution. That still happens to reluctant Russian soldiers inside Ukraine where officers have the authority to shoot reluctant troops. Initially, as Russian casualties grew and progress was nonexistent, some officers did shoot troops refusing to fight. That soon changed as the troops threatened to, and sometimes did, shoot back (or [in one case] ran over an officer with a tank). … Many Russian troops will surrender to the Ukrainians at the first opportunity and admit it to Ukrainian, Russian and foreign journalists.

The Russian government responded by lowering their recruiting standards and accepting recruits or conscripts with physical, mental, legal or psychological problems that would normally make them ineligible for military service. Russia has also dropped age limits for volunteers and is willing to accept non-Russians as long as they can speak some Russian and are willing to fight. …

Reports from Ukrainian forces and recently captured Russian troops indicate that most BTG (Battalion Task Groups) are sent into action understrength by up to 50 percent. A larger percentage of the BTGs armored vehicles are in action but most of these are IFVs (Infantry Fighting Vehicles) with just the vehicle crew of three men to drive and operate the heavy weapons. Only some carry a few infantrymen as well.

This approach was supposed to provide a force that could advance after the Ukrainians had been weakened or wiped out by a heavy barrage of shells and unguided rockets. This has not worked because the Ukrainian dig in and enough survive to stop the understrength BTGs that withdraw if they encounter opposition. The Ukrainians also have shortages, but not of personnel willing to fight. The Ukrainians have at least 50 percent more troops than the Russians in Ukraine. …

Ukrainians are running short of artillery ammunition so they use their mobile artillery only for counterbattery (firing on Russian artillery). The Russians are also using artillery ammo at an unsustainable level and, if the Ukrainians receive more artillery ammo from NATO, Russia’s artillery superiority will fade. Vladimir Putin is encouraged by some major NATO nations (Germany, France and the U.S.) not getting promised weapons and ammunition to Ukraine quickly. … The sooner the NATO big three deliver promised aid as quickly as possible, the sooner the Ukrainians will be able to push the Russians out.

The Russians are short on infantry, especially quality infantry. The Ukrainians are short on artillery. So the Russian artillery is doing massive bombardment of everything in their path — but they can only do it on a very narrow front, while their ammo holds out. But it’s working well enough to finally capture Severodonetsk after three months, after literally flattening 80% of the city:

Ukrainian Troops Retreat From Severodonetsk. By Yaroslav Trofimov.

Ukraine ordered its troops to withdraw from their remaining foothold in the city of Severodonetsk to avoid encirclement, the regional governor said, ending a battle that lasted nearly two months and giving Russia a small but symbolically important victory in the grinding war for control of eastern Ukraine’s Donbas area.

Hard to defend and separated from the rest of Ukrainian-held territory by a river, Severodonetsk, a city of just over 100,000 people before the war, had limited strategic value by itself. It holds, however, political significance for both sides because of its status as the administrative center of Ukrainian-controlled parts of Luhansk.

hat-tip Stephen Neil