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Putin Has a Crisis Brewing: He Is Running out of Ammo in Ukrane

Russian TOS-1 flamethrower weapon. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Russian TOS-1 flamethrower weapon. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The war in Ukraine has entered its tenth month, and the Russian forces are running out of ammo

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In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization of the Russian reserves, calling up approximately 300,000 men to arms.

The influx of Russian reservists to frontline units gave a much-needed manpower boost to the flagging Russian military

Up to that point, the Russian commanders had had to move around troops from one part of the front to another in order to conduct offensive operations.

But that created gaps in the Russian defenses, something which the Ukrainians saw and shrewdly exploited with surprise and lighting counteroffensives, first in the east and then in the south.

The onrush of winter and reserves have stabilized the Russian front lines.

However, Moscow will not win the war by defending. A large-scale offensive operation requires ammunition to support it.

“Russia has augmented its force in Ukraine with tens of thousands of reservists since October. Despite the easing of its immediate personnel shortages, a shortage of munitions highly likely remains the key limiting factor on Russian offensive operations,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.

The Russian military is also relying on tens of thousands of Wagner Group mercenaries.

More Men, Less Ammo in Ukraine

For months since the start of the war, the Russian forces enjoyed an advantage in numbers almost all across the board. At some point during the summer, the Russian military was lobbing more than 20,000 rounds a day at the Ukrainians. But the Russian advantage has been slowly ebbing away with every passing day to the extent that Moscow has had to turn to North Korea for artillery ammunition. 

Most of the fighting is taking place in Bakhmut, a Ukrainian town in the Donbas, and the Ukrainian forces there maintain a relative superiority in artillery. 

But the Russian military is facing wider shortages in munitions. Moscow’s ballistic and cruise missile arsenals, in particular, are dwindling fast.

Since September, and in response to the Ukrainian victories on the battlefield and the attack on Kerch Bridge, which connects Crimea with Russia, Putin has ordered large-scale missile and drone attacks against Ukrainian urban centers and critical infrastructure.

According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, Russia has launched more than 1,000 ballistic and cruise missiles against Ukraine since early October.

The strikes have been quite effective, damaging a big portion of Ukraine’s energy grid and plunging millions of Ukrainians into the dark, without heat, water, and internet as the winter is setting in.

But the repeated missile barrages and the Western sanctions on the Russian defense and aerospace industry have taken a toll on the Russian missile arsenal. Now, the British Military Intelligence assesses, Moscow can only launch missile attacks against Ukrainian infrastructure to only once a week.

Russia has likely limited its long-range missile strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure to around once a week due to the limited availability of cruise missiles. Similarly, Russia is unlikely to have increased its stockpile of artillery munitions enough to enable large-scale offensive operations,” the British Military Intelligence added.

“A vulnerability of Russia’s current operational design is that even just sustaining defensive operations along its lengthy front line requires a significant daily expenditure of shells and rockets,” the British Ministry of Defense assessed.  

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Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.