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Ukraine starts hitting ammunition depots deep in Russia’s rear

Russian ammunition depots on fire (left to right): Khrustalnyi, Luhansk Oblast, 16 June 2022; Donetsk, 18 June 2022; Kadiivka, Luhansk Oblast, 24 June 2022.
Ukraine starts hitting ammunition depots deep in Russia’s rear
Last week saw Ukraine hitting ammunition depots in the rear of Russian forces with tactical missiles, aircraft, and artillery. This might just turn the tide in the war: it neutralizes Russia’s advantage.

In the recent week, there has been a significant increase in the number of alleged and confirmed Ukrainian attacks on Russia’s rear military facilities in the occupied territories.

Ukrainian troops are now actively using the tactical missiles Tochka-U, aircraft, and artillery to cause a shortage of ammunition for the advancing Russian troops and equalize the firepower.

Russia’s huge advantage in artillery remains the main reason why the Russian troops are still able to slowly make gains in the easternmost Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts and prevent Ukraine from reversing the tides of the war. With this factor removed, Ukraine might be able not only to slow down the invading force but also to put the Russian advancement to a halt and even start regaining the lost territory.

Lately, Ukrainian officials raised the alarm that Ukraine was running out of Soviet-era artillery and rocket ammunition and urged Western allies to boost supplies of artillery guns and shells, and to start supplying the American multiple rocket launch systems and other heavy equipment.

Russian Invasion map. June 24, 2022. Credit: Ukraine War Mapper

Ukraine largely failed to organize the mass production of heavy ammunition over the first eight years of war while Russia conducted a covert campaign to sabotage any foreign military supplies to Ukraine.

Not only artillery and unguided rockets have been running low. In the first months of the Russian invasion, Ukraine would use its tactical ballistic missiles Tochka-U extremely sparingly given Ukraine’s very scarce stocks of these Soviet-made rockets.

Race against time: Ukraine runs out of ammo, calls for MLRS, artillery – US “willing to provide” everything needed

The last two weeks, however, saw multiple Ukrainian strikes on Russian deep rear military facilities. The active use of this only type of tactical missile in Ukrainian possession came immediately before and amid the first American supplies of the multiple rocket launchers HIMARS, which can largely replace the Tochkas on the battlefield.

Later on, the US reported that Ukraine had received the first batch of four HIMARS, and Ukraine showed the first footage of the instances of the combat use of these rocket artillery pieces, although without a presentation of the results of the strikes. Four more HIMARS are included in the next US aid package.

The destroyed field and rear ammunition depots

The Ukrainian official reports don’t make difference between the destroyed Russian stationary facilities serving as ammunition stocks for a front or an entire battalion-tactical group and smaller field ammunition dumps. Moreover, the strikes on rear facilities are often omitted in the official communiques. Nevertheless, footage and social media reports coming from the occupied territories can often confirm the destruction of the Russian rear supply facilities.

On 14 June, there were two Russian ammunition depots destroyed in the east of Ukraine, as per the East Operational Tactical Group. Two other ammunition storage facilities got hit in Kherson Oblast:

On 16 June, a major Russian ammunition depot was obliterated in Khrustalnyi, Luhansk Oblast:

The next day’s video shows the scale of devastation: the nearby streets were literally covered with shells and fragments:

On 17 June, the Ukrainian military destroyed a field ammunition depot of the Russian forces in Ukraine’s south, the Operational Command South reported.

A video from Donetsk dated 17 June shows another ammunition depot on fire with ammunition detonations audible:

Ukraine’s Operational and Tactical Group East reported that on 18 June, the country’s Armed Forces destroyed two ammunition depots in the east of Ukraine, while presidential aide Oleksii Arestovych noted that with these two there had already been seven Russian ammunition storage facilities destroyed in a week.

One of the Russian ammunition facilities targeted in Donetsk on 18 June was the one located downtown in the building of an exhibition center. Russia used the DonbasExpo premises as an ammunition depot for many years:

The Operational Command South said that Ukraine’s forces eliminated three Russian ammunition depots on 20 June, one on 21 June, and two more on the next day in Kherson Oblast.

At least one more ammunition depot saw the destruction in Donetsk on 20 June:

The General Staff said that June 21 saw the destruction of “several” Russian ammunition depots.

The video shows a large fire at a Russian military base in Donetsk on 21 June with ammunition detonations audible in the background:

On 23 June, Ukrainian aircraft hit a Russian ammunition depot in the northeastern direction, according to the Air Force Command.

Why long-range Western MLRS can become a game-changer for Ukraine

Overnight into 24 June, a Russian rear ammunition depot got hit in Kadiivka, Luhansk Oblast, more than 30 kilometers away from the front line that shifted to the north after the Ukrainian retreat from Zolote:

On the morning of 25 June, a fire broke out at the dairy factory on the outskirts of the west Luhansk city of Svatove.

Russian ammunition depots on fire
Svatove, Luhansk oblast, 25 June 2022. Source

Later on 25 June, two missiles hit the Snizhnyanskkhimmash in the rear city of Snizhne, Donetsk Oblast. Locals reported that the hit premises have been used by the Russian troops as an air defense base. The video shows the moment of the strikes, the Twitter user who has shared the video suggests that the plant was hit by HIMARS rockets, however, the slower speed of the second missile captured in the video indicates that it could have been the Tochka-U:

After the failed Russian attempt at the blitzkrieg in the first two months of the full-scale invasion, Russia changed its tactics in the battle for the Donbas: instead of multiple the dispersed armor attacks all across Ukraine’s north, south, and east, Russia concentrated the large portion of its forces in one region, trying to utilize its numerical advantage in artillery, aircraft, and missiles.

Russia managed to capture several key settlements in Luhansk oblast in the last two months, with the latest captured city being Sievierodonetsk. However, the flip side of these Russian tactics is the fact that while gaining the territory, Russian troops don’t actually capture the settlements: the concentrated artillery and air strikes raze every city to the ground before the Ukrainian troops retreat and Russia can capture the settlement’s ruins.

If the Ukrainian military receives enough Western equipment and ammunition, and also manages to cause significant ammunition shortages for the Russian artillery, Russia would lose its major advantage on the battlefield, giving Ukraine a chance to stabilize the front and shift from the defensive to the offensive.

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