March 13, 2024

Institute for the Study of War:  Ammo shortages weaken Ukraine’s front line

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian shortages of ammunition and other war materiel resulting from delays in the provision of US military assistance may be making the current Ukrainian front line more fragile than the relatively slow Russian advances in various sectors would indicate. Ukrainian prioritization of the sectors most threatened by intensive Russian offensive operations could create vulnerabilities elsewhere that Russian forces may be able to exploit to make sudden and surprising advances if Ukrainian supplies continue to dwindle. Russia’s retention of the theater-wide initiative increases the risks of such developments by letting the Russian military command choose to increase or decrease operations anywhere along the line almost at will.

German outlet Der Spiegel published interviews with unnamed Ukrainian commanders on March 12 who stated that almost all Ukrainian units and formations have to husband ammunition and materiel because of the overall ammunition shortage and that some Ukrainian units with limited ammunition and materiel can only hold their current positions if Russian forces do not “attack with full force.” Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi warned that there is a threat of Russian units advancing deep into Ukrainian formations in unspecified areas of the frontline.

Ukrainian forces are likely attempting to mitigate problems caused by ammunition shortages by prioritizing the allocation of ammunition to sectors of the front facing larger-scale Russian offensive operations. The lower intensity of Russian offensive efforts against currently de-prioritized sectors likely obscures the risks to Ukrainian forces in those areas resulting from ammunition shortages. ISW continues to assess that Russian forces have the theater-wide initiative and will be able to determine the time, location, and scale of offensive operations so long as they retain the initiative. Syrskyi’s and the Ukrainian commanders’ statements suggest that an intensification of Russian offensive operations in an area where Ukrainian forces have not prioritized allocating already limited ammunition supplies could lead to a Russian breakthrough and destabilization along a previously stable sector of the frontline in a short period of time. The current frontline is likely thus not stable, and timely Western resourcing of Ukrainian troops is essential to prevent Russia from identifying and exploiting an opportunity for a breakthrough on a vulnerable sector of the front.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian shortages of ammunition and other war materiel resulting from delays in the provision of US military assistance may be making the current Ukrainian front line more fragile than the relatively slow Russian advances in various sectors would indicate.
  • The rate of Russian advance west of Avdiivka has recently slowed, although Russian forces likely retain the capability to intensify offensive operations in the area at a moment of their choosing.
  • Ukrainian actors conducted large-scale drone strikes against energy infrastructure and military assets within Russia on the night of March 12 to 13.
  • The governor of the pro-Russian Moldovan autonomous region of Gagauzia, Yevgenia Gutsul, claimed on March 13 that her recent meetings with Russian officials in Russia led to deepening economic ties between Gagauzia and Russia, which the Kremlin likely hopes to exploit as part of its wider efforts to destabilize Moldova and prevent Moldova from joining the EU.
  • Russian sources claimed that Russian forces repelled another limited cross-border incursion by the all-Russian pro-Ukrainian Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK), Freedom of Russia Legion (LSR), and Siberian Battalion in Belgorod and Kursk oblasts on the night of March 12 and the morning of March 13.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Avdiivka amid continued positional engagements along the entire frontline on March 13.
  • Russian authorities continue efforts to censor protests of wives and mothers of mobilized soldiers ahead of the Russian presidential election.

For full report:  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-13-2024 

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