Isobel Koshiw in Kiev
Ukraine’s deputy military intelligence chief said Ukraine is losing to Russia on the front lines and is now relying almost exclusively on weapons from the west to keep Russia in check.
“This is an artillery war now,” said Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s deputy head of military intelligence. The fronts where it will be decided, he told the Guardian, “and we are losing in terms of artillery”.
“Everything now depends on what [o Ocidente] give us,” Skibitsky said. “Ukraine has one artillery piece for 10 to 15 Russian artillery pieces. Our western partners have given us about 10% of what they have.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy praised Britain’s support for Kyiv on Friday and reiterated his call for more weapons, while UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace paid an unannounced visit to Ukraine.
“Words become actions. That’s the difference between Ukraine’s relationship with Britain and other countries,” Zelenskiy said in a video statement. “Arms, finance, sanctions – on these three issues, Britain shows leadership.”
Ukraine is using 5,000 to 6,000 artillery rounds a day, according to Skibitsky. “We have almost exhausted all our ammunition [de artilharia] and now we are using standard 155-caliber NATO rounds,” he said of the ammunition that is fired from artillery pieces.
“Europe is also delivering smaller caliber projectiles, but as Europe runs out, the quantity is getting smaller.”
Zelenskiy said last week that between 60 and 100 Ukrainian soldiers were dying each day and another 500 were wounded. Ukraine has kept the total number of its military losses a secret.
Soldiers speaking to Ukraine’s frontline Guardian this week painted a similar picture.
Skibitsky stressed the need for the West to provide Ukraine with long-range rocket systems to destroy Russian artillery pieces from afar. This week, the Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych told the Guardian that Ukraine needed 60 multi-rocket launchers – far more than the handful promised so far by the UK and US – to have a chance of defeating Russia.
Ukraine is due to ask the West for a list of weapons and defensive equipment at the NATO liaison group meeting in Brussels on June 15.
Skibitsky thinks the conflict will remain predominantly an artillery war for the foreseeable future and the number of rocket attacks – which can be launched from Russia and hit civilians – will remain at the current pace.
In the first month, Russia was constantly attacking Ukraine with rockets, but in the last two months it has decreased. Recent data published by the head of Ukraine’s armed forces states that Russia launches between 10 and 14 a day.
Rockets are expensive to manufacture. Each rocket can cost anywhere from a few hundred thousand dollars to several million.
“We have noticed that Russia is carrying out far fewer rocket attacks, in addition to now employing old Soviet H-22 rockets.
Skibitsky said Russia was unable to produce rockets quickly because of the sanctions and had used up about 60% of its supplies.
The sound of sirens has become an everyday feature for Ukrainians. Sirens regularly sound in several regions simultaneously, but most of the time, for people on the ground, they go by without a rumble. According to Skibitsky, each siren signals that a rocket has entered Ukrainian airspace, but its impact is not always reported for safety reasons.
“Rockets take 40 to 90 minutes to hit the ground, depending on where they’re launched… We don’t know where they’re going to land,” Skibitsky said. He noted that Russia was currently using long-range bombers that can reach anywhere in Ukraine without leaving Russian airspace.
In terms of the three front lines, Skibitsky said most of Russia’s forces are now concentrated in the Donbass region and seeking to occupy the administrative borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics. This was the area, he said, where artillery battles were heaviest.
In northeastern Ukraine around Kharkiv, he said Russian forces were focusing on defense after Ukraine’s counteroffensive drove them out of several towns and villages in the region in May.
“The threat to Kharkiv has diminished,” said Skibitsky, from Ukraine’s second-largest city, which has been regularly bombed since the beginning of the war.
Finally, in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, two regions of southern Ukraine that Russia almost completely occupies, Russian forces were working long-term, Skibitsky said. According to him, they are building double, sometimes triple lines of defense.
“Now it will be more difficult to regain that territory,” Skibitsky said. “And that’s why we need weapons.” [a cidade de] “If they succeed in the Donbas, they can use these territories to launch another attack on Odesa, [e] zaporizhzhia
Dnipro,” Skibitsky said of the main cities under Ukrainian control that are close to southern Russia – occupied areas. “Their goal is all of Ukraine and more.”
Ukraine’s military intelligence believes that Russia can continue at its current pace without making more weapons or mobilizing the population for another year.
Skibitsky does not rule out the possibility that Russia will freeze the war for a period of time to convince the West to lift sanctions. “But then they’ll start over – look at the last eight years,” he added. SOURCE:
EDITOR’S NOTE: The H-22 missile, also known as the Kh-22 or X-22 (AS-4 Kitchen in NATO nomenclature) is a cruise missile developed by the USSR in the 1960s and for many years was the main weapon of the Tu-22M bomber.