Putin Running Out of Ammo in Ukraine? Russian forces are struggling to sustain artillery barrages, and in some parts of the frontlines, the amount of shelling has dropped by as much as 75%. U.S. and Ukrainian officials don’t have a clear or singular explanation, but it is believed that the Kremlin is now rationing artillery rounds due to low supplies.
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Though it has also been suggested that it is part of a broader reassessment of tactics, it would still be evidence that Russia finds itself on a far weaker footer than it likely expected a year ago as it was preparing for its invasion.
What Happens Next in Ukraine?
As CNN reported on Thursday, it also comes as Ukraine is enjoying increased military support from its Western allies, which have pledged to send armored fighting vehicles and possibly even main battle tanks.
Russian forces have apparently taken control of the eastern mining town of Soledar – but at a heavy cost. So many Russian soldiers have been killed that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described Soledar, once a bustling salt-mining town with a population of some 10,500 people, as having “no life left” amid the fierce fighting. At best, Moscow has achived a pyrrhic victory – but it could be a step closer to taking control of Ukraine’s Donetsk region, one of the four provinces that it claimed to have annexed last year.
However, it is unclear if Russia will be able to exploit any gains it makes on the battlefield given that it appears to be struggling with a shortage of ordnance.
Last month, there were reports that Russia had burned through its stockpiles of artillery shells and as a result was relying on ordnance that is decades old.
“They have drawn from (Russia’s) aging ammunition stockpile, which does indicate that they are willing to use that older ammunition, some of which was originally produced more than 40 years ago,” a U.S. military official told Reuters.
It was further speculated that Russia would have burned through its “fully-serviceable” stocks of ammunition by early 2023 if it hadn’t turned to de facto allies such as North Korea when it purchased an undisclosed amount of ordnance last autumn.
Russia was able to turn to Pyongyang as North Korea operates weapons that are based on the Soviet-era designs still employed by Kremlin forces. The ordnance likely included artillery shells and small arms ammunition.
Moscow also turned to Iran to obtain hundreds of ballistic missiles and drones to fight in Ukraine.
“We assess that at the rate of fire that Russia has been using its artillery and rocket ammunition in terms of what we would call fully serviceable artillery and rocket ammunition. They could probably do that until early 2023,” the U.S. military official added.
Lack of ammunition for artillery has long been a problem for militaries during wartime.
If Russia is facing a shortage of ordnance, it would be reminiscent of the “Shell Crisis of 1915” in the UK that eventually led to the fall of Prime Minister H. H. Asquith’s government in December 1916.
This new ordnance shortage may not be enough to bring down Russian President Vladimir Putin, but it certainly doesn’t help Russia’s situation in the least.
Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.