Putin 'much weaker than we think' says John Sweeney
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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine appears to have ground to a halt in recent weeks. After gaining some momentum last month with its capture of the Luhansk province in Ukraine’s east, Putin’s army is now making very little headway. Moreover, Ukraine’s army looks set to launch a major counteroffensive in the south of the country, as it aims to take back the vital port city of Kherson.
A large reason for the turn around in events has been the delivery to Kyiv of state of the art heavy artillery equipment from the US and its NATO allies.
These include M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and other multiple rocket launch systems (MLRS).
The HIMARS have a range of 85 km and have enabled Ukrainian commanders to pinpoint and destroy with devastating accuracy Russian ammunition dumps and command posts behind the front lines, as well as disrupt supply networks.
By contrast, the Russian artillery has a range of between just 20 to 40 km and is increasingly reliant on old Soviet equipment.
Ruslan Pukhov, a defence analyst and director of the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, predicted that the Ukrainian superiority in heavy artillery would lead to a ignominious defeat for the Russian president before the autumn.
In a recent interview, he praised Ukraine’s army for being quick to master the new weapons provided by the West.
He said: “But the Ukrainians learn very quickly, they have turned out to be quite talented soldiers.
“Training takes several weeks, therefore the supply of weapons is on the rise, including in terms of quality (such as HIMARS).”
He then ominously added: “Towards the end of summer, I think, the situation on the front lines may become dramatic.”
Mr Pukhov also argued that Ukraine held a critical advantage in terms of the number of soldiers it could muster.
The Kremlin is scrambling to bolster its troop numbers, after having sustained massive casualties.
Estimates vary from 15,000 to over 42,000 killed in action with many thousands more injured.
Reports have emerged of covert mobilisation of Russia’s population in the regions.
The private militia Wagner is said to have recruited soldiers from within Russia’s penal colonies, such is the desperation for fresh blood.
Commenting on Russia’s mobilisation dilemma, Mr Pushkov said: “At the same time, we do not have a national call-up. We are practically fighting with a peace-time army.
“But the Ukrainians have already implemented a fourth wave of mobilisation, therefore there is no shortage of people.
“It’s true that their army has suffered a significant degradation of personnel, but there is the first reserve. And there is the second and third echelon.
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“That means at a given moment we may end up in a positional dead end like in the Korean War of 1951.
“Our army will stand up but will not be able to advance further.”
It comes as the first photos of Britains L119 howitzers on the front lines in Ukraine were shared on social media outlets.
Ukraine’s souther army command said the artillery weapons were being deployed to good effect on the Kherson front.
They said: “Artillery units of the Air Assault Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine have already mastered and are using British L119 105mm howitzers in practice.
“It is in the Kherson region that they help Ukrainian gunners effectively hit and destroy enemy targets.”
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