Dwindling Ammunition Stocks Pose Grave Threat to Ukraine

The crew at an artillery position in eastern Ukraine had 33 shells in its ammunition bunker, stacked neatly like firewood against a wall.

Then came an order to fire. Twenty minutes later, smoke wafted around a howitzer and 17 shells were gone — more than half the crew’s ammunition. The rapidly depleted stack was emblematic of Ukraine’s dwindling supply of artillery munitions, even as Russian attacks persist.

“Artillery decides battles,” said Capt. Vladyslav Slominsky, the artillery commander along this section of the front. “Who has more wins.”

For now, that is Russia, as Ukrainian soldiers are reaching for some of the last ammunition for some types of weapons after months of delays in the U.S. Congress over a fresh round of military and financial assistance. There are signs that the logjam may be breaking, as Speaker Mike Johnson this week laid out potential conditions for bringing the measure up for a vote that it is expected to pass despite opposition from many conservative Republicans.

The shortfall comes as Ukraine is on the defensive along the 600-mile front line in eastern Ukraine and is building additional fortifications, such as bunkers, trenches and minefields. Artillery ammunition is needed to hold the line until the defensive fortifications are completed and an expected Russian offensive gets underway this summer.

Russia has had an artillery advantage throughout the war, but that edge diminished for a time last year. Estimates vary, but analysts and Ukrainian officials say Russia is now firing at least five times as many artillery rounds as Ukraine.

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