Vladimir Putin’s forces face ‘out of the blue’ ammunition shortages as warehouses destroyed ‘one by one’ using Himar and MLRS weapons. Article by Roland Oliphant, Senior Foreign Correspondent and James Kilner for the Telegraph - 10 July 2022
Russia is running short of ammunition for its armies fighting in Donbas after Ukraine hit several arms depots with new Western long-range artillery, a pro-Russia blogger has said.
The hits on at least five depots lying miles behind the frontline between Donetsk and Luhansk began on Friday and set off explosions at each site that lasted several hours.
Bloggers reported seeing fires burning for hours and Russian state media said that debris from the sites had been catapulted up to three miles away. Local authorities closed roads and evacuated civilians.
In his blog, Fighting Cat Murtz, a pro-Russia former rebel fighter, blamed Russian commanders who knew that Britain and the US were supplying Ukraine with long-range missiles but still stored ammunition within their range.
Russian air defences 'ineffective' against Himars
"Now we've lost these warehouses one by one," he wrote. "Instead, out of the blue, a wild 'shell hunger' has just been created by the enemy who has mastered new foreign artillery systems and MLRS." MLRS are British long-range artillery systems.
Fighting Cat Murtz is a supporter of the pro-Russia Donetsk People's Republic, but is scathing of the Russian military leadership. In his latest blog, he called them "vile, petty and thieving".
Igor Strelkov, a former commander of rebel forces in the Donetsk People's Republic, who had strong links to Russia's FSB, confirmed Fighting Cat Murz's information. He said that 10 ammunition dumps had been hit over the past week by Ukrainian missiles, and that several oil depots and a dozen command posts had been destroyed.
"The Russian air defence system … turned out to be ineffective against massive strikes by Himar missiles," he said on his Telegram channel, which has 400,000 followers. "There have been big losses in personnel and equipment."
Ukraine's strike against Russian command posts and ammunition supplies came after further US deliveries took the total number of Himars on the battlefield to nine.
Ukrainian forces had been begging for long-range artillery to even up the massive imbalance of weapons in the main Donbas war zone, where Russian forces have conquered town after town - mainly by bombing them into submission.
Kyiv has not attributed specific strikes to receiving US Himars, British M270 MLRS and French Caesar howitzers. However Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of Luhansk region, has said that the campaign had succeeded in slowing Russian offensive operations.
On Twitter, Ukrainian supporters were celebrating. "How can you sleep when it is so beautiful," one Twitter user wrote against a video from Donetsk of several explosions.
'Losses are very serious'
Russia's Ministry of Defence has said that it has destroyed two Himars systems, although Ukraine denied this claim.
Unofficial Russian military propaganda channels urged them to intensify their hunt for the Western weapon systems or face "serious losses".
"Himars are working. Very accurate work on command posts. Losses are very serious,” one used on the Telegram social messaging app. The post was shared by Military Informer, a generally reliable pro-Russian propaganda channel.
Starshe Eddie, a Telegram channel run by an author who often reports from Russian frontline forces, said on Friday that Western weapons should "neither be underestimated nor a reason for panic". However, it urged Russian commanders to disperse and camouflage high-value targets, like command posts and ammunition depots.
“A number of systems supplied by Nato enable high-precision strikes far in the rear, especially with Nato satellite intelligence,” the author wrote in a post shared widely on pro-Russian war channels.
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Ukraine has been targeting Russian ammunition depots with Western long-range weapons, such as this one on a logistics target near the railway station in Donetsk Credit: EyePress News/Shutterstock