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ISW: Russian breakthrough possible, current front line ‘likely not stable’

by Chris York March 14, 2024 10:15 AM 3 min read
Ukrainian soldiers on an armored infantry vehicle on the road to Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast, on Feb. 14, 2024. (Vlada Liberova/Libkos/Getty Images)
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Ukraine’s ammunition shortage caused by delays in U.S. aid could soon lead to a Russian breakthrough on the front lines, a sobering assessment from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said.

In its latest report on March 13, the ISW highlighted that Ukraine is being forced to ration critical ammunition – in particular, artillery shells – and prioritize allocation based on those areas currently facing the most intense Russian attacks.

With Moscow’s forces currently holding the initiative in the war and being able to determine the “time, location, and scale of offensive operations,” this leaves other areas of the front-line highly vulnerable.

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The situation was recently acknowledged by Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi who in a post on Telegram on March 13 said “the situation is gradually becoming more difficult and there is a threat of enemy units advancing deep into our battle formations.”

Syrskyi did not specify which areas he was referring to but said units holding these positions would be reinforced with “reserves, ammunition, electronic warfare equipment, which will further ensure the stability of our defense on this part of the front.”

According to the ISW, the current front line is not stable, and “timely Western resourcing of Ukrainian troops is essential to prevent Russia from identifying and exploiting an opportunity for a breakthrough on a vulnerable sector of the front.”

Syrskyi on March 13 said Russia continues to advance near the settlements of Terny, Ivanivske, Berdychi, Tonenke in Donetsk Oblast and Verbove and Robotyne in Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

In other sectors of the front, which Syrskyi did not specify, the activity of Russian forces “has noticeably decreased,” the general said, suggesting that this followed Russia’s "extremely heavy losses" after two weeks of fierce fighting.

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“This happened due to timely managerial decisions to strengthen the defense of this sector of the front, timely replacement of units which lost their combat capability, as well as due to the courage and resilience of our soldiers,” Syrskyi said.

But the ISW warned that such changes in the tempo of Russian attacks could also signify the “reprioritization of offensive efforts” as Moscow’s forces attempt to break through in other areas of the front line.

While this gives Kyiv’s forces a chance to regroup, rearm and counterattack, the Kremlin may believe Ukraine’s ammunition shortage makes the risk of such operational pauses worthwhile, the ISW said.

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