The New York Times: Russia-Ukraine War Briefing

Russians battle for Bokhmut.

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Russ Roberts (https://www.geopoliticalnews.com).

Ukraine-Russia News

November 28, 2022

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By Carole Landry

Editor/Writer, Briefings Team

Welcome to the Russia-Ukraine War Briefing, your guide to the latest news and analysis about the conflict.

A military hospital in Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s Donbas region, on Friday. Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Russia’s battle for Bakhmut

Russian forces are largely digging into defensive positions for the winter. But Russia is also mounting a desperate attempt to capture Bakhmut, a city that has become a destructive vortex for both countries’ militaries in Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Russian troops are trying to strangle the city from the east and south, according to Ukrainian soldiers. For months, both sides have thrown masses of troops and matériel into battle there, my colleagues Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Natalia Yermak and Tyler Hicks report.

At the city’s only military hospital, doctors report an almost unending stream of Ukrainian casualties. By midday Friday, they had counted 50 wounded. The day before, 240 people had come through the hospital’s doors.

The attacking Russians are suffering far worse, cut down by artillery and machine-gun fire, Ukrainian soldiers say.

Newly mobilized Russian soldiers “are just taking a rifle and walking right down, like in Soviet times,” a Ukrainian medic said. “He gets killed, and the next one comes up the same way.”

Ukrainian soldiers in Bakhmut on Friday.Tyler Hicks

Russia’s fighting force in Bakhmut is led by the Wagner Group, a private mercenary outfit with direct ties to the Kremlin. After Russia’s retreat from Kherson earlier this month,rank-and-file forces redeployed from the south are now supporting Wagner Group fighters, according to a U.S. defense official and Ukrainian soldiers.

Ukraine has sent floods of reinforcements, including Special Forces troops and territorial defense fighters, according to soldiers, local residents and a U.S. defense official. It has also deployed large quantities of Western-supplied shells and rockets.

“In the six months that I’ve been in Bakhmut, I have never seen our artillery working like this,” a Ukrainian soldier in the city said, referring to the volume of Ukrainian shells fired.

Analysts say that Russia’s military is unlikely to succeed in capturing Bakhmut, given the degradation of its forces and ammunition shortages after a series of setbacks. Still, Russia can turn the city into a resource-intensive black hole for Ukraine, taking troops away from other priorities, including future offensives.

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Ukrainian soldiers firing artillery at Russian positions near Bakhmut this month.Libkos/Associated Press

The Western weapons shortage

When the Soviet Union collapsed three decades ago, European nations drastically reduced their armories, thinking that a land war in Europe would never happen again. They were wrong.

The war is now chewing up those modest stockpiles of weapons as Europeans, along with the U.S., race to arm Ukraine.

Russia and Ukraine are also burning through weaponry and ammunition at their own staggering paces. In Afghanistan, NATO forces might have fired 300 artillery rounds a day and had no real worries about air defense. But Ukraine can fire thousands of rounds daily and remains desperate for air defense against Russian missiles and Iranian-made drones.

“A day in Ukraine is a month or more in Afghanistan,” one defense expert said.

Last summer in the Donbas region, the Ukrainians were firing 6,000 to 7,000 artillery rounds each day, a senior NATO official said. The Russians were firing 40,000 to 50,000 rounds per day. By comparison, the U.S. produces 15,000 rounds each month.

The West is scrambling to find increasingly scarce Soviet-era equipment and ammunition that Ukraine can use now and is sending strong signals to defense industries that longer-term contracts are in the offing. There are even discussions about NATO investing in old factories in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Bulgaria to restart the manufacturing of Soviet-caliber 152-mm and 122-mm shells for Ukraine’s Soviet-era artillery.

In total, NATO countries have so far provided some $40 billion in weaponry to Ukraine, roughly the size of France’s annual defense budget.

The Russians, too, are having resupply problems of their own. Moscow is also trying to ramp up military production and is reportedly seeking to buy missiles from North Korea and more cheap drones from Iran.

More about weapons

  • High-tech cannons supplied by the U.S. and its allies are burning out after months of overuse, or being damaged in combat. Repair work is being done at a facility in Poland set up by the Pentagon’s European Command.
  • The Pentagon is considering a Boeing proposal to supply Ukraine with cheap, small precision bombs fitted onto rockets, allowing Kyiv to strike far behind Russian lines, Reuters reported.

What else we’re following

To provide comprehensive coverage of the war, we often link to outside sources. Some of these require a subscription.

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Thanks for reading. I’ll be back Wednesday. — Carole

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