Huge plus Western long-range artillery forces setback in faltering Putin tactics

Ukrainian crews reload a HIMARS launcher

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Iryna Terehovych smiled when she heard the word “HIMARS”. She told that the weapons were making a tangible difference on the frontlines. The systems were provided to Ukrainian forces at the end of last month, and already have helped to slow or even stop Moscow’s brutal advance across the country.

She said the enemy is now moving the rear further and it is becoming difficult for them to move food and ammunition to the frontlines which is a “huge plus”.

There have even been reports of a large Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south of the country near the city of Kherson in Kherson Oblast. Kyiv’s forces have been using long range artillery to hit enemy supply lines and ammunition dumps in an attempt to run Russian guns dry.

Ms Terehovych has been fighting Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region of Donetsk and Luhansk for years. She first started fighting in 2016.

Before the full-scale war, she commanded an anti-tank unit, however, after the initial phase of the invasion, Ukraine was forced to shift strategies. She now commands a reconnaissance platoon which helps to direct artillery fire.

She said: “Previously, I was the commander of an anti-tank team. Right now, this is a war of the UAV and big artillery. It’s no longer relevant to use anti-tank missiles.”

She added: “[Now], my team checks the information provided by authorities, [we do] reconnaissance using various optical devices.”

During the initial stage of the Kremlin’s invasion, the media was flooded with videos of Javelin anti-tank missiles and NLAWs destroying Russian armour and vehicles. As Russia attempted to Blitzkrieg Kyiv, it pushed quickly into Ukraine – at great cost.

However, as Putin realised Kyiv wouldn’t fall easily or quickly, Moscow withdrew its forces to the east of Ukraine and changed strategies.

Now its advances have employed the Soviet tactic of extremely heavy artillery bombardments followed by ground offensives. In the process, several Ukrainian cities have been almost completely destroyed.

With the delivery of long range artillery, particularly HIMARS from the US and M270 multiple launch rocket systems from the UK, the West has attempted to level the playing field for Ukraine.

Ms Terehovych said: “You found that we did not have long range artillery, and they [Russian forces] have it. It’s a pity because we often had information about Russian long range artillery working but we can’t reach it and can’t do anything to stop it.”

However, Ukraine now has the ability to hit Russian forces where it, arguably, hurts them the most: their supply lines.

Since the beginning of the invasion, the Kremlin has struggled to supply its forces, now that they have consolidated in the south and east of the country, those crucial supply lines have been shortened.

With the limited amount of Western systems, Ukraine has had to prioritise high value targets. They have systematically destroyed ammunition dumps and command posts, forcing Russian commanders further from the action and have made ammunition, crucial for the massive Russian artillery bombardments, scarce on the front.

Already soldiers on the frontline are feeling the effects.

Ms Terehovych said: “The enemy is moving its rear further, and it is problematic for them to deliver ammunition and food to the frontlines, and this is a huge plus.”

She added: “[Their] armour will be worth nothing without ammunition.”

Western analysts have also noted the lull in Russian artillery strikes. In fact, NASA FIRMS satellite data, which is normally used to see fires from space but can also be used to see the aftermath of artillery, seems to show a marked decrease in Russian strikes in the east of the country since the Western back up arrived.

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Ukraine’s armed forces are massively outnumbered by Russia. But with the introduction of new and sophisticated technology and the perseverance of its soldiers on the ground, the resilient defenders could yet turn the tide in the war.

Notably, Ukraine has launched a massive counter-offensive in the south of the country near Kherson. Using HIMARS and other artillery, it has severely disrupted Russian supply lines there.

This week, Ukrainian HIMARS rendered Antonivskyi Bridge unusable for military vehicles. The bridge is the easiest way to resupply the crucial city of Kherson, in which Russian forces have begun preparations for urban warfare as Ukraine’s forces advance.

Washington-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in an update Friday that Russian forces were also likely facing “territorial losses” in the area.

It said: “Russian forces attempted a limited ground assault on the Southern Axis on July 28 but are likely suffering territorial losses in Kherson Oblast.”

It added: “Russian forces are attempting to preserve their ground lines of communication over the Dnipro River connecting Kherson City to rear areas in eastern Kherson Oblast.

“Russian forces established a ferry crossing under the Antonivskyi Bridge to allow passenger traffic to cross the Dnipro after Ukrainian strikes on July 27 rendered the bridge unusable.”

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