Ukraine Situation Report: Czechs Call For Sourcing Shells For Ukraine From Outside Europe

Amid dire warnings of ammunition shortages for Ukraine, the Czechs are urging Europe to source shells from further afield.

byThomas Newdick|
ZAPORIZHZHIA DIRECTION, UKRAINE - JANUARY 14, 2024 - A serviceman of the 66th separate cannon artillery battalion of the 406th separate artillery brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is pictured by the howitzer shells, Zaporizhzhia direction, south-eastern Ukraine.
Dmytro Smolienko / Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images
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With Ukraine in desperate need of new stocks of ammunition to feed its prodigious use of artillery, the Czech Republic has reportedly called on its European allies to cast the net wider and look for suitable munitions outside of the European Union.

According to a report today from Politico, Europe “is falling way short on its pledge to send one million artillery shells to Ukraine by March.”

Instead, the European Union will deliver 524,000 shells to Ukraine by March, with a total of 1.1 million promised by the end of the year.

In response, Czech officials say they are trying to encourage other European countries to buy around 450,000 rounds of artillery from outside the bloc. Possible sources could include South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey.

South Korea, reportedly, has been earmarked by the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell as a suitable source. This would raise the prospect of Seoul providing munitions to Ukraine, while Russia makes use of artillery ammunition that has been acquired from its arch-rival, North Korea. South Korea has so far resisted requests for deadly military aid for Ukraine, but there has been some inclinations that could change.

Ukraine's benefactors have pursued artillery stocks far outside of Europe at the NATO alliance since not long after the war begun, and have been successful in those efforts. But there is a global shortage of shells and limited manufacturing capacity to make more.

Since the start of the full-scale invasion, and even before, fighting between Russia and Ukraine has been dominated by artillery bombardment. In recent months, however, there have been growing warnings from Kyiv that its forces are running dangerously low on ammunition for their artillery. This is partially due to the U.S. no longer providing military aid due to funding legislation that is tied up in a political fight in Congress about U.S. border policy. In response, Europe has been working to increase its ammunition production capacity, but this is not happening quickly enough to meet Ukrainian requirements.

Before diving into more developments from the conflict in Ukraine, The War Zone readers can review our previous coverage here.

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In a significant breakthrough, European Union leaders have persuaded Hungary’s Viktor Orbán to sign off on a long-delayed €50-billion ($54-billion) aid package for Kyiv. The package had been in limbo since December when Orbán — who has attempted to maintain cordial relations with Russia since the start of the full-scale invasion — vetoed it.

“All 27 leaders agreed,” said Charles Michel, the European Council president, yesterday, adding that “this locks in steadfast, long-term, predictable funding for Ukraine.”

Now that there is unanimous agreement on the package, European Union leaders have hit back at Orbán.

“Nobody can blackmail 26 countries of the EU. Our values were not for sale,” declared Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo.

Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, added that he had “nothing nice” to say to the Hungarian prime minister and criticized him for attempting to make what he described as “rotten compromises”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the European Union’s pledge of long-term financial assistance but at the same time called for an increase in military aid. “It is very important that the decision was made by all 27 leaders, which once again proves strong EU unity,” Zelensky added.

With Ukrainian forces struggling to make inroads on the battlefield, securing additional funds from the European Union at this point was widely seen as vital. In particular, reliance on Europe is much greater due to the aforementioned ongoing battle in Washington over future funding for Kyiv.

Additional footage has emerged showing the Ukrainian attack that sunk the Russian Tarantul-III class missile corvette Ivanovets on Wednesday using uncrewed surface vessels (USVs). The attack took place on the Black Sea near Lake Donuzlav in western Crimea.

Previously, Ukraine’s military intelligence published a grainy video showing several sea drones attacking the Russian corvette, ending with three dramatic images showing it listing, exploding, and sinking below the waves. Now, another video taken from one of the USVs shows the impressive detonation of what was likely one or both of the port-side P-270 (SS-N-22 Sunburn) anti-ship cruise missiles that armed the Ivanovets.

Ukrainian-operated Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns appear to be receiving a previously unseen type of counter-drone device. The exact type of equipment, or how it functions, is unclear, but it comprises a prominent antenna or probe mounted on the turret. There are some suggestions that it could instead be associated with the Ukrainian Delta battle-management system.

This interesting video shows a Ukrainian Armed Forces YRP-765 infantry fighting vehicle being put to good use, despite its advancing age. The Netherlands supplied Ukraine with around 200 of these vehicles from May 2022 onwards. The YPR-765 is based on a design developed by the FMC Corporation in the United States and entered service in 1977. All Dutch examples have since been replaced by the more modern CV90, Fennek, and Boxer.

Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, has written an opinion piece for CNN in which he sets out what he sees as the priorities for Ukraine — and the major challenges ahead — as the country approaches the second anniversary of the full-scale Russian invasion.

Published yesterday as rumors about the imminent removal of Zaluzhnyi from his post continue to swirl, the Armed Forces chief said: “We must contend with a reduction in military support from key allies, grappling with their own political tensions.”

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi holds a press conference in Kyiv. Kaniuka Ruslan / Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Zaluzhnyi also called upon Ukraine to find new ways and capabilities to gain an edge over Russia, with the Ukrainian counteroffensive launched last summer having made only marginal gains.

The need for Ukraine to adopt more innovative approaches is driven in part, the army chief said, by “the weakness of the international sanctions’ regime [that] means Russia … is still able to deploy its military-industrial complex in pursuit of a war of attrition against us.”

Zaluzhnyi also references the difficulties in getting the government in Kyiv to back his calls for greater mobilization, including a requirement for up to half a million draftees, to help counter Russia’s overwhelmingly superior troop numbers.

“We must acknowledge the significant advantage enjoyed by [Russia] in mobilizing human resources and how that compares with the inability of state institutions in Ukraine to improve the manpower levels of our armed forces without the use of unpopular measures,” Zaluzhnyi writes.

Zaluzhnyi did not mention any potential rift with Zelensky, although CNN did note that the article was written before “an expected announcement of [Zaluzhnyi’s] dismissal.”

This Ukrainian T-72 is one of the most fearsome-looking tanks of any kind to have appeared in the war in Ukraine. The T-71M1 variant is festooned with different types of anti-drone and anti-RPG protection, including screens on the side and rear, and slat armor above the turret. It is also fitted with a mine plow.

There is growing evidence that Russia is cannibalizing its Ka-52 attack helicopters, presumably repairing worn-out and battle-damaged components on still-active aircraft with corresponding parts from examples that have been grounded after being damaged in combat.

We have previously seen some very impressive footage of Ukrainian M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles engaging Russian forces in combat. The next such offering is just as dramatic.

Here, we see the Bradley use its 25mm cannon to attack Russian infantry, supposedly close to the heavily contested town of Avdiivka, in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. After the gunfire tears through the troops, survivors are then subjected to ferocious bombardment from multiple small drones. Viewer discretion is advised.

The U.K.’s Ministry of Defense reports that the Russian National Guard, better known as Rosgvardia, is increasingly adding former mercenaries from the Wagner Group into its ranks.

The MoD, in one of its latest intelligence assessments, says that Rosgvardia is incorporating three former Wagner assault detachments into its first volunteer corps formation.

In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law authorizing the National Guard to form its own volunteer formations. With the Wagner Group private military company left in disarray by the failed coup attempt last summer, and the subsequent death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a former close ally of Putin, in a mysterious plane crash, Rosgvardia is likely set to supersede it as Putin’s “private army”.

The MoD statement continues: “Rosgvardia will likely deploy its new volunteer detachments to Ukraine and Africa. Rosgvardia is reportedly offering volunteers six-month contracts for service in Ukraine, and nine-month contracts for service in Africa. The incorporation of former Wagner assault detachments into Rosgvardia’s volunteer corps highly likely indicates that Wagner has been successfully subordinated to Rosgvardia, increasing the Russian state’s command and control over the Wagner Group.”

A video has emerged showing a Ukrainian BM-27 Uragan multiple rocket launcher firing from a barge.

Putin is set to visit NATO member Turkey later this month, where he will meet its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The meeting, planned for February 12, was confirmed by a Turkish official. It comes at a sensitive time in relations between the countries, with Turkey recently having been approved a major U.S. arms acquisition, of new F-16 fighters and upgrades for existing aircraft. A return to the F-35 stealth fighter program could also be on the table but would require Turkey to give up its S-400 air defense systems, controversially purchased from Russia.

Putin is prevented from traveling to many countries, due to an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for war crimes, but Turkey does not recognize the ICC.

While independent confirmation has so far not been forthcoming, Ukraine claims to have struck the Russian airbase at Belbek, on the occupied Crimean peninsula, yesterday.

The Ukrainian Air Force commander, Gen. Mykola Oleshchuk, said that his units were responsible for an attack on Belbek attack, sharing online a video of an explosion and calling it a “cleansing of Crimea from the Russian presence”. A Russian military radar was hit earlier in apparent preparation for the Crimea attacks.

We cannot confirm the strike occurred at this time, but satellite imagery should indicate something happened there or not soon.

With Republicans still blocking another round of funds and arms for Ukraine, U.S. President Joe Biden is seemingly continuing to look for ways around this and keep Kyiv supplied.

According to Greek media reports, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has notified the Greek government that the United States will transfer to Greece surplus military equipment including two C-130 transport aircraft and 60 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles; also on offer are ships, trucks, and other equipment. Under the proposed agreement, Greece would make an equivalent transfer of equipment to Ukraine.

Unclear at this stage is what arms would be transferred from Greece to Ukraine, although there have been recent reports from Athens that it might be preparing to send to Kyiv much-needed S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile systems. Unusually for a NATO member, Greece has fairly significant stocks of Soviet-era and Russian-made air defense systems, some of which it has now apparently agreed to hand over to Kyiv.

To finish the news, and in acknowledgment of Groundhog Day, February 2, here’s a look at the equivalent Ukrainian critter: a European groundhog (Marmota cuniculum). This one, named Tymko III, reportedly survived Russian occupation in the village of Nesterivka, before the settlement was liberated in a Ukrainian counteroffensive. Read more in the thread below.

That’s it for now. We’ll write more about Ukraine when there’s more news to report.

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