December 18, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Ukrainian forces short on ammunition

Institute for the Study of War

A combination of artillery ammunition shortages and delays in the provision of Western security assistance is likely causing Ukrainian forces to husband materiel and may delay future Ukrainian counteroffensive operations. Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Commander Brigadier General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi stated in an interview with Reuters published on December 18 that Ukrainian forces have shortages of 122mm and 152mm shells along the entire frontline. Tarnavskyi stated that the shortages are prompting Ukrainian forces to redistribute artillery ammunition and replan military tasks. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister General Ivan Havrylyuk also acknowledged on December 18 that Ukrainian artillery ammunition shortages will continue. Tarnavskyi stated that Russian forces are also having issues with artillery ammunition, although Ukrainian and Western officials have reportedly assessed that the Russian forces are currently conducting artillery fire at a rate five to seven times greater than the Ukrainian forces.

Both Russian and Ukrainian forces have likely expended large portions of their Soviet-era stocks of 122mm and 152mm artillery shells, forcing both to look abroad for other stocks of this artillery ammunition. Russia has recently received large quantities of these shells from North Korea, and Ukraine and its Western partners have engaged in efforts to source these shells from foreign stocks. It is unclear what delays or impediments there may be in Ukrainian and Western efforts to source 122mm and 152mm shells and how any such delays may be contributing to current Ukrainian shortages. Ukrainian forces are increasingly using Western-provided 155mm artillery systems along the front, and possible delays in Western security assistance may impact available supplies of 155mm shells, although US assistance packages have recently included 155mm shells. Havrylyuk stated that Ukraine is currently focusing on the domestic production of drones to offset artillery shortages and is planning to produce 155mm ammunition in Ukraine with Western companies in 2024.

Key Takeaways:

  • A combination of artillery ammunition shortages and delays in the provision of Western security assistance is likely causing Ukrainian forces to husband materiel and may delay future Ukrainian counteroffensive operations.
  • Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi declined to comment on recent Western reporting about Ukrainian counteroffensive and Russian offensive plans for 2024.

  • Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat stated on December 18 that Russian forces have enough drones to launch daily strikes against Ukraine from different directions.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is reportedly forming four new military transport aviation (VTA) regiments, although these efforts are likely aimed at reorganizing existing VTA units in support of Russia’s force posturing rather than adding new capability in the short term.
  • The Russian Government Commission on Legislative Activity supported a bill that would criminalize “Russophobia” abroad, likely as part of ongoing efforts to maintain and increase Russian influence in post-Soviet countries.
  • Russian officials simplified requirements to obtain Russian citizenship for Belarusian, Kazakh, and Moldovan citizens amid continued hostility towards migrants in Russian society.
  • The European Union (EU) adopted its 12th sanctions package in connection with Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk City, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and made a confirmed advance southwest of Donetsk City.
  • Former Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) People’s Militia Spokesperson Eduard Basurin claimed that more than 25,000 Russian personnel are serving with Cossack volunteer formations in Ukraine as of December 18.
  • Kremlin-appointed Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova continues to deny Russian and Belarusian involvement in the forced deportation of Ukrainian children from occupied areas.

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