Russia using artillery to compensate for lack of airpower, ground assault capabilities, and poor targeting abilities

Shocking aerial footage taken by Ukrainian drones showed corpses and the twisted wreckage of vehicles littering fields around the town.

According to a new assessment, Russian forces are using artillery to “offset” their “degraded” abilities in offensives against Ukrainian fighters.

Moscow’s “high demand” for shells shows its forces are “still heavily relying on artillery to offset key shortcomings” in the Kremlin’s military, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said on Saturday.

Russia is using artillery to compensate for lack of airpower, ground assault capabilities, and poor targeting abilities, the ISW said. An intense wave of artillery attacks “flatten settlements” before Russian forces capture the area with ground attacks, the think tank added. This then reduces the need for precision airstrikes, infantry attacks, or aircraft risking being downed by Ukraine’s air defenses, according to the ISW assessment.

So-called “shell hunger,” or a lack of ammunition, has long afflicted Russia’s troops fighting in Ukraine. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian mercenary Wagner Group, previously posted footage of fighters in Ukraine he claimed had been killed because of “shell hunger.” In February, he accused the Russian Defense Ministry and military commanders of “treason” for not furnishing the Wagner fighters with ammunition, which the defense ministry denied.

Alexander Khodakovsky, former security minister of the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine, said on Saturday that a lack of ammunition for Russian forces was down to preparations for a touted Ukrainian counteroffensive. He wrote on Telegram that Russian forces in areas without active offensive operations have “almost completely” stopped receiving ammunition.

In mid-March, the British Defense Ministry said Russia’s artillery ammunition shortages had “likely worsened” over the past weeks. “Extremely punitive shell-rationing is in force on many parts of the front,” the ministry said in its daily intelligence update on Twitter on March 14, 2023.

The government department said that Russian forces were “almost certainly” turning to old munitions previously deemed unfit for use.

But Ukraine’s troops are also facing a “critical ammunition shortage,” The Washington Post reported on Saturday. The outlet reported that Russia may be firing triple the amount that Ukraine is using.

However, Ukrainian forces are “more accurate in their targeting,” the ISW said, as well as taking defensive positions in many areas that typically use up less artillery.

In February, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Ukraine was using more ammunition than Kyiv’s Western backers could supply to its armed forces.

“The current rate of Ukraine’s ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production,” Stoltenberg said.

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