Russia is scouring the country to find manpower and weapons, including old tanks in the Far East, which senior European officials with knowledge of the situation say used up much of its military capacity in the first 100 days of its invasion of Ukraine on Tuesday. the ground.
As a result, Russia may only need a few months to delay operations for a major regroup, these people said, on the condition of anonymity to discuss matters not public. The Kremlin could also be forced to announce a mass mobilization to call in soldiers to continue the fight, people said, though President Vladimir Putin has so far been reluctant to do so, as it would amount to a public acknowledgment that the war is not going as planned.
Russia’s troubles may not come soon enough to provide aid to Ukraine’s besieged forces in the eastern Donbas area. Kiev’s armed forces, under massive fire from Moscow, are losing 100 or more a day, Ukrainian officials say, and have slowly had to give up ground around the cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. In fact, if Russia takes those two – specifically the more strategic city of Lysychansk which is still under Ukrainian control – it would conquer the entire Luhansk region and achieve one of the goals Putin had set at the start of the war.
But Russia’s progress remains slow and mostly confined to Luhansk, even after it focused its efforts on the greater Donbas after failing to take Kiev and other major cities early in the war. Combined with signs that the Kremlin could be short of men and equipment, that has led some European officials to conclude that it could be months before seeking some sort of ceasefire that will allow the profits it has been able to achieve so far.
“Russia will probably need at least another 2-3 months to capture major cities in Donbas, such as Slovyansk and Kramatorsk,” said Indrek Kannik, director of the Estonian International Center for Defense and Security. “Then Russia will reach its capacity and press for a deal on that basis.”
While the conflict now appears to have been settled in a war of attrition, a senior Eastern European official said the stalemate is unlikely to continue in the long term and warned a crunch point could come in a few months.
To be sure, Russia has revived its progress after it seemed to slow down in the past, and Putin’s decades-long military build-up has left it with huge stockpiles of weapons and ammunition. “The situation at the front is now difficult,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhailo Podolyak wrote on Telegram on Tuesday. Russia, he said, “has accumulated an awful lot of weapons.”
Ukrainian officials have steadily stepped up calls for more weapons in recent weeks, but have not given any public hint that they believe Russia’s advances are running out soon. Commander-in-Chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said on Sunday that Russia is now tenfold superior in artillery, while President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said the battle for Sievierodonetsk will determine the fate of Donbas.
Still, Russia has lost a large number of tanks and armored personnel carriers and has been forced to dig into stockpiles of older equipment, including decades-old T-62 tanks from the Eastern Military District. Some of the outdated arsenal could be used for security and other behind-the-line applications, as it would quickly run into problems if deployed to the front lines.
“Russia continues to deploy insufficiently prepared volunteer and reserve forces to bolster its ongoing operations,” the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said in a report Tuesday, noting social media reports of reservists training on D- Soviet-era 20 artillery and T-80BV tanks.
Publicly, Russian officials deny any difficulties in supporting the war effort and promise to continue until their goals are achieved, though they do not specify what they are. Privately, some Kremlin insiders have suggested that they expected Western resolve to flag before Putin’s.
Brief note on Russian equipment. I think we’ll see more T-80BV, BMP-1 and MT-LBs as they dig into storage to replace losses. T-62Ms for reservists and perhaps LNR/DNR mobilized units. I suspect the biggest challenge will be replacing lost BMP-2 IFVs, hence BMP-1s.
— Michael Kofman (@KofmanMichael) June 13, 2022
If the Kremlin’s manpower and equipment problems become serious enough to force it into some sort of ceasefire agreement, it would present Ukraine and its allies with the painful choice between giving up territory to end the fighting or continuing a brutal war amid growing concerns about rising energy and food prices and other consequences. For now, the US and UK, among others, support Zelenskiy’s desire to keep fighting, even as some politicians in France and Germany are discussing the merits of some sort of truce.
“I’m afraid of these premature peace talks or the ceasefire, because this is exactly how it was in Donbas: let’s freeze the conflict here. Everyone stays where they are and let’s not go any further,” said the Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas in an interview last week. “But what we’ve seen with Georgia, with Crimea, with Donbas, is that there will be a pause of a year or two, and then everything will continue and on a much broader scale.”
To be clear – to end the war we need heavy weapons parity:
1000 howitzers caliber 155 mm;
2000 armored vehicles;
The meeting of the group of defense ministers will be held in #Brussels on June 15. We are waiting for a decision.
— ихайло одоляк (@Podolyak_M) June 13, 2022
“We need to focus on military aid now,” she said. “If the decisions are made to send heavy weapons, they should be sent now, not in December.”
If Ukraine manages to mount a counter-offensive and push back Russian forces, it would pose new dilemmas for Europe, she said.
“As long as Ukraine is currently defending their country, sending weapons is fine for everyone,” she said. But if Kiev’s troops push Russian troops to the pre-invasion borders and then try to recapture the land Moscow captured in the 2014 war, “I’m pretty sure there are voices in Europe saying okay, you guys.” are the bad guys now,” she said. “But we have to understand that it is still their territory.”
–With help from Marc Champion and Daryna Krasnolutska.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)