Western weapon deliveries in a race against Russia offensive | Russia-Ukraine war News
Ukraine has secured a new weapon that will help it launch a major counteroffensive later this year, but Russia tried to regain the initiative in the 49th week of the war.
Ukraine was facing intensifying fighting in the east, where Russian regulars were revitalizing fronts held by Wagner mercenaries, launching new offensives and gradually building up positions.
The city of Bakhmut, in the east of the country, was hit hardest of all, where, according to the commander of the Ukrainian unit, Denis Yarolavsky, “over-qualified” Russian troops arrived within a week. These included elite airborne troops who reportedly made minor gains in the town of Bakhmut itself on 29 and 30 January.
According to the official representative of the eastern forces of Ukraine, Serhiy Cherevaty, in one day on January 31, 42 battles took place within a radius of 15 km from Bakhmut near Donetsk.
Russian troops began a new battle against Vuhledar, a town 30 kilometers southwest of occupied Donetsk, on January 27. The Ukrainian defenders recaptured them, but geolocation footage showed that they had captured Mikilskoe on the southeastern outskirts of Vuhledar.
On January 27, Russian forces also carried out combat reconnaissance in the neighboring Luhansk region, breaking through Ukrainian defenses in the Ternov region.
Further north, they stepped up their artillery bombardment across the border. According to the State Border Service of Ukraine, on January 26, 60 explosions were heard in the Sumy and Chernihiv regions far from the front line. The explosions were 120 mm shells fired from Russian territory.
And Russia continued its offensive, launching 55 air and sea-based cruise missiles and 24 Iranian drones on Ukraine on January 26. Ukrainian air defense shot down 47 missiles and all 24 drones. The surviving rockets caused no casualties, but the next day three people were killed and 14 injured when Russian S-300 rockets hit Konstantinovka in the Donetsk region.
Weapons are promised
After the attack on Konstantinovka, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky again called for the use of longer-range weapons.
“Ukraine needs long-range missiles, in particular, in order to remove this opportunity for the occupier to place their missile launchers somewhere far from the front line and destroy Ukrainian cities with them,” Zelensky said.
As if in response, two U.S. Defense Department officials told Reuters that Ukraine’s upcoming $2 billion military aid package could include some of the longer-range weapons Ukraine is asking for.
The Land Based Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) has a range of 150 km (93 miles), double that of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) the US provided last June. The bombs will leave all of occupied Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporozhye and Kherson within reach of Ukrainian forces.
This is important because Russia is learning from its mistakes and placing ammunition depots 80-120 km (50-75 miles) from the front line in the Rostov region, out of the reach of HIMARS rocket artillery, the deputy head of Ukrainian military intelligence said. Vadim Skibitsky.
“If you ask what is critical for the Russian Federation, then the centers of gravity are precisely these nodes, and they need to be hit in order to disrupt supply systems of all kinds,” Skibitsky said.
Longer-range weapons would also help Ukraine soften Russia’s defensive posture ahead of a counteroffensive, Skibitsky said.
Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ignat stated that Ukraine was to receive the French-Italian Aster 30 anti-aircraft missile, which also has a range of up to 150 km (93 mi), which may have been consistent with this decision. providing GLSDB.
The US still hasn’t approved giving Ukraine the 300-kilometer (186-mile) Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) missile it wants.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on January 27 that Poland would provide Ukraine with 60 modern tanks, including a company of Leopard 2 tanks.
This brings the number of Western battle tanks transferred by the Allies to 119, including 14 Leopard 2 tanks from Germany, 14 Challenger 2 tanks from the UK, and 31 Abrams M1 tanks from the US.
This is still far from the 300 battle tanks that Ukraine has said it needs to return all of its occupied territories, and not all of them can arrive quickly.
Valuable time – and lives – lost
Analysts have suspected for some time that Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning a major counteroffensive, and evidence of this emerged in the 49th week of the war.
Putin was reportedly planning an offensive at the end of the winter to regain the initiative, Bloomberg quoted Kremlin sources as saying.
“Putin remains convinced that Russia’s larger forces and its willingness to put up with losses … will allow it to win, despite setbacks so far. The resumption of the offensive could begin as early as February or March, people close to the Kremlin say.
A German company of Leopard 2 tanks and a British company of Challenger 2 tanks are due to arrive in Ukraine at the end of March, with Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh saying the Abrams tanks “will take months, not weeks.”
A Russian offensive in the next two months could find Ukrainian forces without equipment, and this has drawn sharp criticism of the West’s indecisiveness.
Jack Watling, an expert at the Royal United Arms Institute, said Germany was insisting that the US provide the Abrams tanks before they promised the Leopards, which was wasting valuable time and complicating Ukraine’s defense capability.
“Thanks to the obstructionism and incompetence of the German government, Ukraine has received the worst possible positive result. Instead of receiving a large number of tanks of the same type, they receive three different NATO-designed tanks, all in limited numbers and each with separate complex maintenance requirements. This will delay the delivery of these tanks to the front lines,” Watling wrote.
Watling said Russia is using its attacks in the Donbas to draw Ukrainian soldiers into a battle of attrition and prevent them from launching a counteroffensive in the spring.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said Ukraine’s counter-offensives depended on Western arms supplies and the delays weakened its defenses.
“If the Allies had begun transitioning Ukraine to Western battle tanks, aircraft and armored vehicles in the early summer of 2022, the Russians would never have had a chance to seize the initiative, as they are now trying to do,” ISW said.
If Ukraine is not ready for a winter offensive, muddy spring weather could force it to postpone it until early summer, allowing Russia to achieve even more territorial conquest, ISW notes.
Better late than never
It seems that the urgency of the situation began to be realized. The US Transportation Command said the 60 Bradley combat vehicles promised last month have already been sent to Ukraine, and published social media photos showing them being uploaded in Charleston, South Carolina, USA.
Allies have also begun to pay attention to the long-term nature of the war Ukraine is facing, given Putin’s apparent intent to double down on the stakes.
The General Staff of Ukraine announced that France and Australia are starting cooperation on the production of 155-mm shells for their artillery.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said German defense manufacturer Rheinmetall is ready to increase production of tanks and artillery pieces to meet Ukraine’s needs.
The United States is increasing the production of artillery shells by a factor of six — a level not seen since the Korean War — to replenish stocks sent to Ukraine, supply more to Ukraine, and stockpile for future conflicts. According to a New York Times report, the US Army purchased 14,400 rounds a month until September 2022, when it tripled them, and doubled them again in January 2023 to 90,000.
But some of Ukraine’s allies are still heading for aviation. Last week, Austria and Hungary joined the US and Germany in refusing to provide F-16 fighter jets.