Moscow’s forces last week took control of the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk after Kyiv announced theirs had “retreated to more prepared positions”. The gain means Russia now controls nearly all of the Luhansk region and much of the neighbouring Donetsk, the two regions of the Donbas.
But Western military experts suggest that, while Russia holds the advantage over Ukraine at this moment, the cost of holding these areas could soon become too much for the Kremlin.
One official told the Washington Post: “There will come a time when the tiny advances Russia is making become unsustainable in light of the costs and they will need a significant pause to regenerate capability.”
They added that “creeping” advances are dependent largely on the launching of great amounts of ammunition.
Russia is currently firing this, particularly artillery shells, at such a rate that almost no military in the world could sustain for a great length of time, the official said.
Having received similar reports on the state of Russia’s forces, Boris Johnson last week told a German newspaper they could perhaps last only for the “next few months”.
The Prime Minister said: “Russia could come to a point when there is no longer any forward momentum because it has exhausted its resources.”
Their difficulties boil down not only to a rapid depletion of ammunition but to a shortage of manpower.
Russian military blogger Yuri Kotyenok, quoted in the Washington Post, noted on his Telegram account: “Russia does not have enough physical strength in the zone of the special military operation in Ukraine… taking into account the almost 620 mile (or more) line of confrontation.”
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The intelligence report, seen by the Independent, revealed that amid such difficulties, “cases of desertion are growing every week”.
The UK offered to better this position by launching a “major training operation” when Mr Johnson met Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv for the second time.
Downing Street said this could train up to 10,000 soldiers every 120 days.
But Ukraine is losing more soldiers than this every 120 days in the Donbas alone.
Michael Kofman, director of Russian studies at the Center for Naval Analysis, told the Geopolitics Decanted podcast: “The most significant part of the war isn’t these geographic points.
“Now it’s a contest of will but also a materiel contest, of who is going to run out of equipment and ammunition and their best units first.”