Ukrainian troops face artillery shortages scale back some operations
Ukrainian troops face artillery shortages scale back some operations

Ukrainian troops face artillery shortages, scale back some operations – commander

KYIV/LONDON (Reuters) – Frontline Ukrainian troops face shortages of artillery shells and have scaled back some military operations because of a shortfall of foreign assistance, a senior army general told Reuters.

Brigadier General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi was speaking after Republican lawmakers held up a $60-billion U.S. aid package and Hungary blocked 50 billion euros ($54.5 billion) in European Union funding for Kyiv as it battles Russia’s invasion.

“There’s a problem with ammunition, especially post-Soviet (shells) – that’s 122 mm, 152 mm. And today these problems exist across the entire front line,” he said in an interview.

Tarnavskyi said the shortage of artillery shells was a “very big problem” and the drop in foreign military aid was having an impact on the battlefield.

“The volumes that we have today are not sufficient for us today, given our needs. So, we’re redistributing it. We’re replanning tasks that we had set for ourselves and making them smaller because we need to provide for them,” he said, without providing details.

The comments underline Kyiv’s reliance on Western military aid to fight Russian troops along a 1,000-km front nearly 22 months into the biggest conflict in Europe since World War Two.

Russian forces also face ammunition problems, Tarnavskyi said, without specifying their nature.

Weary Ukrainian troops on the southeastern front have gone on the defensive in some areas but are trying to attack in others, he said.

Ukrainian forces still expect victories but would benefit from reserves to rotate and rest them, he said.

“In some areas, we moved (to defence), and in some we continue our offensive actions – by manoeuvre, fire and by moving forward. And we are preparing our reserves for our further large-scale actions,” he said.

RUSSIA’S CHANGING TACTICS

Tarnavskyi, commander of the “Tavria” operational grouping, led a counteroffensive that forced Russian troops out of the southern city of Kherson and the western side of the Dnipro River in November 2022, Kyiv’s last major battlefield success.

He also had a prominent role in a larger-scale push in the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia this year that made little progress against vast Russian trenches and minefields.

Russia is on the offensive in the east and trying to encircle the strategic eastern town of Avdiivka, whose defence Tarnavskyi oversees.

“Their (Russian forces’) intention remains (the same). The only thing is that their actions change, tactics change… attacks are carried out constantly,” he said.

The situation in Avdiivka was changing “every day and every night” with Russian forces regularly altering their tactics, having achieved “partial success in some areas at a depth of about 1.5 to 2km”, he said.

“I believe that we are firmly maintaining these lines today,” he said. “Today, the enemy is pressuring us with their numbers. They have never cared and will not care for their personnel.”

Avdiivka is widely seen as vital to Russia’s aim of wresting full control of the two eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk – two of the four Ukrainian regions Russia says it has annexed but does not have full control of.

‘EVERYONE HOPES’

Neither side has made significant territorial gains this year and the fighting is largely attritional.

Tarnavskyi said all brigades were working out ways to give personnel some rest.

“Today we have certain difficulties with the personnel that we have on the front lines. Yes, today they are not so fresh, not so rested,” he said. “Every commander should have a reserve.”

Kyiv has been discussing ways to improve the way men are conscripted into the army, and lawmakers are drawing up legislation to enhance the process, though the exact details are not yet known.

Tarnavskyi said winter conditions – the cold, reduced visibility and lack of cover from trees that have no foliage – were a challenge for both sides.

“But we have many years of experience of conducting military operations in winter conditions. Logistics, and evacuation and movement of equipment and personnel are complicated,” he said.

Ukraine increasingly needs the means to defend itself against growing strikes by Russian attack drones, but Ukraine is banking on Western F-16 fighter jets being delivered, he said.

“With the presence of the F-16, it will be totally (different). In my opinion, as an infantry officer, the F-16 is like a Mercedes compared with a Zaporozhets (an old Soviet car),” he said. “Everyone is hoping.”

($1 = 0.9164 euros)

(Writing by Tom Balmforth, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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