April 16, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Zelenskyy decries halt in supply of air defense systems

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized that continued shortages in air defense systems and artillery are preventing Ukraine from effectively defending itself against Russian strikes and ground assaults. Zelensky stated in an interview with PBS News Hour, which aired on April 15, that Ukrainian forces continue to lack enough air defense systems to protect Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. Zelensky noted that Ukrainian forces were only able to destroy the first seven of the 11 Russian missiles launched against the Trypilska Thermal Power Plant (TPP) on April 11 before running out of air defense missiles, allowing the remaining four missiles to destroy the plant. Zelensky also expressed frustration with the differential US response to strikes against Ukraine and Israel and stated that the United States and the West are continuing to limit military aid out of the false belief that such self-restraint will prevent further Russian aggression. Zelensky reported that Ukrainian forces currently suffer from a 1-to-10 artillery shell disadvantage and that this artillery ammunition disadvantage allows Russian forces to push Ukrainian forces back each day. ISW continues to assess that continued US delays in security assistance to Ukraine limit Ukrainian forces’ ability to conduct effective defensive operations while giving Russian forces flexibility in conducting offensive operations — a dynamic that can lead to compounding and non-linear opportunities for Russian forces to make operationally significant gains in the future. Russia and Ukraine are engaged in a constant air domain offense-defense innovation-adaptation race, in which Russia continues to adjust the timing, scale, composition, and targets of its strike packages to attempt to penetrate Ukraine’s air defense umbrella. Significant delays in US military assistance have already created shortages in Ukraine’s air defense missile stockpiles and hinder Ukraine’s ability to adapt to evolving Russian strike packages. Limited air defense systems and interceptors have forced Ukraine to make difficult decisions to allocate air defense systems between rear and frontline areas leaving frontline troops largely exposed to Russian air attack, and only the United States can rapidly provide air defense systems to Ukraine at the scale necessary to significantly improve Ukraine’s air defense capabilities.

Zelensky signed a new mobilization law on April 16, codifying a difficult but critical decision in Ukraine’s efforts to stabilize its force generation apparatus and adequately prepare the Ukrainian fighting force both defensively and offensively. The new mobilization law, which the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada adopted on April 11, lowers the Ukrainian draft age from 27 to 25 years of age, cancels the status of “limited suitability” for military service, and requires citizens living abroad to register for military service in Ukraine. Ukrainian military officials have emphasized the exigency of a new Ukrainian mobilization law to address Ukraine’s manpower shortages that, together with the shortages of Western aid, are making Ukrainian defense on critical areas of the front extremely difficult. Ukraine’s ability to defend throughout the theater and eventually contest Russia’s battlefield initiative is contingent on Ukraine’s ability to restore existing units and create new units, as well as on the provision of US military assistance to existing and new units.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized that continued shortages in air defense systems and artillery are preventing Ukraine from effectively defending itself against Russian strikes and ground assaults.
  • Zelensky signed a new mobilization law on April 16, codifying a difficult but critical decision in Ukraine’s efforts to stabilize its force generation apparatus and adequately prepare the Ukrainian fighting force both defensively and offensively.
  • Russian forces in eastern Ukraine are using smaller groups to conduct assaults and are reportedly suffering from morale issues, but Russian attacks are unlikely to culminate in the near term despite these challenges because of Ukrainian materiel shortages.
  • A Russian Storm-Z instructor argued that Russian forces should capitalize on Ukrainian disadvantages brought on by materiel shortages to increase Russian guided glide bomb strikes to support Russian ground operations.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin continued to show support for Iranian aggression against Israel during a March 16 call with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
  • People’s Republic of China (PRC) President and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Xi Jinping met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on April 16 and proposed prerequisites for the end to the war in Ukraine in a manner that suggests that Xi is continuing to posture himself as a neutral mediator in the war despite increasing reports of China’s support for the Russian war effort.
  • Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) recently destroyed a Russian Nebo-U long-range radar station in Bryansk Oblast.
  • The Kremlin continues to centralize authority over Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov’s “Akhmat” Spetsnaz forces via the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD).
  • Russian federal censor Roskomnadzor is considering banning TikTok in Russia.
  • Russian forces made confirmed advances near Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Donetsk City and in western Zaporizhia Oblast amid continued positional engagements along the entire line of contact on April 16.
  • The Republic of Tatarstan is reportedly preparing a new youth employment program that would allow minors aged 14 and older to work at Russian defense industrial base (DIB) enterprises, likely as part of an ongoing effort to expand the Russian DIB.
  • Russian occupation officials are using the education system, particularly history courses, to Russify Ukrainian children living in occupied areas.

For full report:  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-april-16-2024 

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