Putins firepower could spell devastation for Ukraine despite humiliating setbacks
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Justin Bronk, Research Fellow for Airpower and Technology in the Military Sciences team at thinktank RUSI, said Ukraine’s forces have “inflicted catastrophic losses” on Russian ground forces since the invasion began on February 24. He added that with about 18,000 to 20,000 Russian troops killed and around 60,000 casualties, Moscow has “struggled to achieve large scale successes” in the war’s second phase in the Donbas region.
Mr Bronk, writing in The Spectator, warned: “But Russia still has the heavy firepower to tear up Ukraine’s defences in specific locations given enough time and munitions.
“As a result – and with its offensive operations now concentrated across a narrow area of the frontline – Russia is taking full advantage of its artillery firepower to grind down individual Ukrainian defensive positions one by one.”
He explained that this approach was extremely difficult for Ukraine to defend against effectively because Russia has far more artillery firepower, greater stockpiles of ammunition and Ukrainian troops have to stay in positions under bombardment in order to hold them.
Mr Bronk added that as a result Russia has been making “continual grinding progress” over the past few weeks around the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk.
The editor of RUSI’s online journal went on the explain that Ukraine’s shortage of ammo for heavy weapons is limiting its ability to carry out large scale counter-offensives in other parts of the country such as Kharkiv and Kherson.
But he suggested that if Ukraine can carry on applying pressure on other areas, “then the situation looks dangerous” for Russia as its forces are “stretched thinly” across many of the frontlines they currently hold.
Mr Bronk said if Ukrainian losses and shortages of heavy weapons prevent them from going on the offensive in the short-term, then “both sides may be left in an exhausting attritional slog” over current frontlines for “the foreseeable future”.
His analysis concluded with a call to Western nations to send Ukraine whatever heavy weapons and ammo they can “as a matter of urgency”.
He said: “The West needs to remember the Russians still have an overwhelming amount of firepower in Ukraine – and they will succeed if they can fight the war on their own terms.”
Mr Bronk’s op-ed comes as the governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region Serhiy Gaidai said Russia is sending a large number of reserve troops to Sievierodonetsk from other battle zones to try to gain full control of the frontline city.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who offered training for Ukrainian forces during a surprise visit to Kyiv on Friday, has stressed the need to keep supporting the country and avoid “Ukraine fatigue” after almost four months of war.
Mr Johnson said: “The Russians are grinding forward inch by inch and it is vital for us to show what we know to be true which is that Ukraine can win and will win.
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“When Ukraine fatigue is setting in, it is very important to show that we are with them for the long haul.”
The PM also said that a victory for Putin would be a “catastrophe” for Ukraine.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday he discussed supplies of heavy weapons and further sanctions against Russia with Mr Johnson.
A number of countries have sent or pledged to send weapons to Ukraine since Russia invaded.
Britain recently announced it would send multiple-launch rocket systems and train Ukranian troops on how to use them.
Jack Watling of RUSI told the BBC: “These systems are precisely what Ukraine needs. They allow the Ukrainians to out-range a lot of the Russian artillery systems and also to strike with precision.”
“That means the Ukrainians can start to knock out and hold at risk the Russian artillery that is at the moment systematically destroying towns across eastern Ukraine.”
The UK has already sent more than 5,000 next generation light anti-tank weapons (NLAW).
It was also announced in April that Britain would send hundreds of Brimstone missiles to the war-torn country.
The Government has also said it has sent or is sending drones, armoured vehicles and air defence systems.
Other equipment supplied by the UK includes more than 200 Javelin anti-tank missiles and 1,360 anti-structure munitions.
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