Artillery vehicle

What Ukraine Can and Cannot Accomplish with Western Artillery

Ukraine destroyed Russian ammunition depots and command centers with advanced artillery systems supplied by the United States and other Western countries. The arrival of the US-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) enabled Ukrainian forces to hold off Russian invaders in eastern Donetsk province and partially isolate Russian forces in the south of Kherson as Kyiv announces its intention to retake the area in a counter-offensive.

But Ukrainian HIMARS alone will not be able to reclaim Kherson from Russia, which has used its numerically superior artillery with brutal effectiveness against Ukrainian forces and civilians along the shifting front line. What can Ukraine accomplish with the artillery provided by the West? Here’s everything you need to know:

How does HIMARS help Ukraine fight back against Russia?

Ukraine was outgunned throughout the Russian invasion, and Russian forces used artillery fire to hammer Ukrainian forces and render uninhabitable, then undefendable, the urban areas they were defending in eastern Donbass.

“They are trying to crush and crush with artillery, without having particularly talented commanders or great successes in modern tactics,” Ukrainian Colonel Serhiy Cherevatyi said. The Wall Street Journal. “They continue to use old Soviet manuals, and the only thing that is effective about them is this use of artillery barrages.”

Howitzers supplied by the West, and then longer-range precision artillery systems, helped Ukraine strike behind Russian lines, disrupting supply lines, destroying ammunition magazines and decimating centers of command, while the Log Explain.

Ukraine said on Monday it struck a regional headquarters of the Wagner Group, a mercenary force closely linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ukrainian officials said they learned the location of the Wagner base in Popasna, Lugansk, from a photo posted on social media by a pro-Kremlin military blogger, with the address posted in a corner. “There is no longer a Wagner HQ in Popasna,” Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksiy Honcharenko wrote on Facebook. “Thank you, HIMARS and the Armed Forces of Ukraine! »

What other measures are Ukrainian forces taking to weaken Russian defenses?

Along with the open battle along the broad front line, Ukraine is waging a shadow war inside the occupied areas. Special operations agents and partisans “sowed terror among collaborationist officials with a series of car bombings, shootings and, according to Ukrainian officials, at least one poisoning”. The New York Times reports.

And while the Ukrainian military is happy to claim credit for disabling three bridges over the Dniper, cutting off the occupied city of Kherson from Russian supply lines east of the river, Kyiv does not openly claim responsibility for various strikes deep into the occupied territory.

A series of mysterious explosions rocked a Russian air base in Crimea last week, more than 100 miles from Ukrainian lines, destroying a handful of advanced warplanes, including fighter jets, bombers and jets. surveillance. Ukraine officially denied responsibility for the apparent attack or another explosion at an ammunition depot in northern Crimea on Tuesday morning, but officials celebrated publicly and privately claimed credit for the explosions.

Ukrainian air defense systems and residual air force denied Russia control of the skies, and Ukrainian naval defenses kept the Russian Black Sea Fleet in “an extremely defensive posture, with patrols generally limited to waters within sight of the Crimean coast”. The UK Ministry of Defense said early Tuesday.

“The Black Sea Fleet continues to use long-range cruise missiles to support ground offensives, but is currently struggling to exercise effective maritime control. It has lost its flagship, Moskva; a significant part of his naval aviation fighter planes; and control of Snake Island”, the Department of Defense tweeted. “The currently limited effectiveness of the Dark Fleet undermines Russia’s overall invasion strategy, in part because the amphibious threat against Odessa has now been largely neutralized. This means Ukraine can divert resources to pressure Russian ground forces elsewhere.”

How is Russia reacting?

Despite Western military aid, “Russia maintains an overwhelming superiority in troop numbers and ammunition, and in recent weeks the Kremlin has decided to reinforce its army in the [Kherson] region, transferring resources there from the fighting in eastern Donbass”, Time reports. Ukraine has laid important foundations for its Kherson counteroffensive, but “cuts in supply lines have not yet eroded Moscow’s overwhelming advantage in artillery, ammunition and weapons heavy, making it difficult, if not impossible, for Ukrainian forces to advance without suffering”. huge losses.”

military analysts, Log reports, “say Ukraine lacks the manpower for a full-scale assault” on Kherson. “The real limitations that Ukrainians face is that it’s really difficult to get ahead in today’s combat environment,” said Phillips O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews. Time. “Unless you have complete command of the sky and the ability to clear the area in front of your troops, those advancing are in real danger of being eaten away.”

Does Ukraine have a chance?

Ukrainian leaders want to try to retake Kherson before Russia holds a referendum on Russia’s absorption of the province, or at least disrupt that effort. Unfortunately for Ukraine, their best chance of dislodging Russia is to isolate Russian forces on the western side of the wide Dnipro, which could take months, not weeks, to pin down Ukrainian forces, said specialist Michael Kofman. Russian studies and strategy. Time.

“The position the Russian army has taken in Kherson is the least defensible of the territories it has occupied,” Kofman said. “Once those bridges are gone and once the connector of the railway bridge to Kherson is gone, then they will have a very hard time finding ammunition there. They will have to retreat to positions that, at best, are outside from the city. “

Russian forces cannot sustain a ground operation without a reliable line of communication and resupply, the US Institute for War Studies assessed over the weekend. “Bringing in sufficient ammunition, fuel and heavy equipment for large-scale offensive or even defensive operations through pontoon ferries or by air is impractical, if not impossible. If Ukrainian forces have disrupted all three bridges and may prevent the Russians from restoring any of them to use for an extended period, Russian forces on the west bank of the Dnipro will likely lose the ability to defend against even limited Ukrainian counterattacks. »

After six months of watching the Ukrainian military execute offensives, “if you had to rate them on a scale of zero to 10, how good you thought the Ukrainians were, I think I would probably put them at around 12 just in based on how awesome they have been to us in so many different ways,” a senior Pentagon official told reporters last week. “And I think, you know, we can all agree from the very beginning that they found ways to do things that we might not have thought possible.”