Ukraine waits impatiently for new US ammunition as intense Russian attacks continue

Ukraine waits impatiently for new US ammunition as intense Russian attacks continue
Ukraine needs at least seven Patriot air defence systems and Zelenskiy has urged the country's allies not to waste time in his daily broadcast, as Ukraine continues to get pummelled by Russian missiles. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews April 28, 2024

Ukraine needs at least seven Patriot air defence systems, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said and urged the country’s allies “not to waste time,” in his daily broadcast on April 27, as Ukraine continues to get pummelled by Russian missiles.

"Of course, I’m grateful to all of our partners who have helped us with air defence: each air defence system and each air defence missile is literally saving lives,” Zelenskiy told the nation. “It’s important that everything works out as quickly as possible: every new agreement with our partners to strengthen our air defence, every initiative from Ukraine’s friends to help us, particularly with finding and supplying Patriot [anti-aircraft missile systems]. Ukraine needs at least seven [Patriot] systems. Our partners have these Patriots.”

Experts from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) noted that the Russians may gain significant tactical advantages while Ukraine’s defence forces are waiting for military aid from the United States.

“Russian forces will likely make significant tactical gains in the coming weeks as Ukraine waits for US security assistance to arrive at the front but remains unlikely to overwhelm Ukrainian defences,” ISW reports.

The Russian military is also suffering losses that Ukrainian troops would not be able to sustain, due the intensity of its attacks; however, as bne IntelliNews reported, the Russian army is 15% larger than at the start of the war thanks to a successful voluntary recruitment campaign that is adding about 30,000 men to its forces a month.

The analysts say that the arrival of US aid to the front in the coming weeks will allow Ukrainian forces to address current logistical problems and suspend Russian offensives but leaves the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) unable to mount a counteroffensive until the end of this year or the start of next year at the earliest.

“Well-provisioned Ukrainian forces will likely be able to prevent operationally significant Russian advances during Russia’s expected summer offensive effort, although Russian forces will nevertheless leverage select advantages and adaptations to pose a significant threat to Ukraine this summer,” ISW concluded.

Politico reported that President Zelenskiy told US House Speaker Mike Johnson in December 2023 that Ukrainian troops would be able to last until “March or April” but would face defeat after that because of a growing ammunition crisis. The conversation reportedly changed Johnson’s mind and led to him pushing through the recent $61bn aid package on April 20 to keep Ukraine in the game.

However, while the Pentagon said that it had pre-arranged some deliveries of ammunition that could be sent immediately, many of the critical supplies will have to be ordered and manufactured, which could take weeks or months to arrive on the battlefield.


Amongst the most desperately needed armaments is the Patriot missile system that is the backbone of Ukraine’s air defence. Ukraine at beginning of the war had at least 50 batteries of Soviet-era S-300 surface-to-air missiles (equivalent to Patriot) and 40 batteries of Buk (equivalent to NASAMs) with 5,000 missiles for S300, but these supplies have long since been expended.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said over the weekend that Ukraine needs 25 batteries to close the whole country’s airspace to Russian missiles but was hoping to scrape together only seven batteries to protect the country’s most important cities.

Europe and the US have used up most of their stockpile of Patriot rockets and most countries are extremely reluctant to send more as that would start to cut into their own strategic defence.

The US Department of Defence published the list of weapons which will be commissioned from the US defence industry for Ukraine within the framework of the $6bn military aid package that includes “additional munitions for Patriot air defence systems,” but not immediately.

Germany has sent two more batteries and has promised a third. Greece last week promised to send a battery but changed its mind a day later. None of the other dozen EU members that have the system have been willing to send them to Ukraine.

Zelenskiy took a swipe at Western foot dragging and is clearly frustrated by the half-hearted support the US has shown, which has cost thousands of Ukrainian lives.

“Russian terrorists can see that unfortunately our partners aren’t as determined to protect Europe from terror as they are to do so in the Middle East. But [our partners] can give us the air defence systems that we need. We mustn’t waste time: we need to signal determination,” Zelenskiy said in his broadcast.

The US is reluctant to send Ukraine any more Patriots from its stockpile. As part of the $6bn allotted to arms purchases from the new US package, some of the spending is going on orders to US arms companies to manufacture Patriot rockets for Ukraine. But there are no plans for the US to send more rockets from its existing stockpile until these newly minted rockets are ready.

Following the recent 21st Ramstein meeting, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said that the US will order $6bn worth of additional munitions for Patriot air defence systems, as well as the NASAMS and HIMARS missile systems, and 155mm and 152mm artillery ammunition, demolition munitions and precision aerial munitions for Ukraine.


Russia gloating

Ukraine’s problems have been a propaganda gift for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has managed to bring the bulk of the population on board and patriotism is current at an all-time high, with trust in Putin up to a record 82%, according to recent polls.

Last week a captured German-made Leopard 2A6 tank arrived in Moscow. On the May 1 during the annual Victory Day celebration, an exhibition of the Russian Ministry of Defence will open, where captured combat vehicles will be presented, including the Leopard. Likewise, last year during Kyiv’s Victory Day parade destroyed Russian armour was also put on display.

As bne IntelliNews reported, Ukrainian forces are withdrawing US-provided Abrams M1A1 main battle tanks from the front lines after at least five were destroyed by cheap Russian drones. However, a day after the report was released the Ukrainian Defence Ministry denied the report, labelling it fake news.

Russia is starting to openly mock the US aid, as fears of the US supplying game-changing armament to Ukraine are fading. In an apparent mockery of US military aid to Ukraine, bakeries in Moscow have started selling chocolate cakes in the form of destroyed Abramtanks for RUB759 ($8), Sputnik posted on its X channel.


In the meantime, Ukraine is being pummelled by a missile barrage that intensified in March after Ukraine began to run out of ammo. British intelligence reported that the situation in the Avdiivka region of Donetsk region is seeing a rapid advance by Russia despite heavy losses.

The government reports that 80% of its thermal power generation capacity has been destroyed or severely damaged and 30% of its hydropower generating capacity is out of action. The majority of Ukrainian power now comes from its 15 nuclear reactors, but there are fears Russia will begin to target those too.

“Russian forces conducted large-scale cruise and ballistic missile strikes against Ukraine on the night of 26-27 April and have likely resumed sea-based Kalibr cruise missile strikes after a long pause,” ISW reports.

Ukraine suffered another intense attack on April 27, as 34 Russian missiles targeted the country's energy infrastructure, both electricity and gas transit facilities. "Those were the gas facilities that the security of European gas supply depends on,” Zelenskiy said.