The war in Ukraine has certainly gone past everybody’s expectations, with the Ukrainian Armed Forces fending off the initial Russian advance to Kyiv and has held off significant pushes by the Russian forces in the east. However, it seems like the prolonged war is taking a toll on Ukrainian troops. They suffer massive losses of 200 deaths per day, and morale decreases after being outgunned in terms of artillery and ammunition.

Western intelligence obtained by The Independent claim that the situation in Eastern Ukraine has taken a turn for the worst for the Ukrainians. These sources indicate that the Ukrainian forces are taking 100 losses a day due to the new conditions of the war, being centrally focused on artillery shelling and slow advances.

Intel suggests that the Ukrainians are finding it challenging to find an answer to Russian shelling as they are outgunned 20 to 1 in artillery and 40 to 1 in ammunition. Furthermore, Ukrainian artillery has a range of roughly 15.5 miles, while Russian artillery can attack them from 12 times this distance. Russian forces have a huge range advantage in terms of artillery fire, with the Ukrainians finding it difficult to get into firing range as they may lose their artillery guns along with more soldiers in the process of moving into firing positions.

Furthermore, the intel report states that the Ukrainians have almost completely run out of missiles for their Smerch MLRS and Uragan MLRS. These weapon systems have a range of up to 50 miles. Their 152mm and 155mm caliber artillery can only reach up to 15.5 miles. In comparison, the Russian forces have missiles that can hit them from 186 miles away through the use of Iskander ballistic missiles, as well as their very own Smerch MLRS, Tochka-U, that both have a range of up to 50 miles, and their Uragan MLRS.

“We’re losing 60-100 soldiers per day killed in action and around 500 people wounded in action. So we are holding our defensive perimeters,” Zelensky said two weeks ago.

Thus, if they were losing 60 to 100 men a day consistantly at the 100-day of war mark, this would put their number of dead at 6,000 to 10,000. Furthermore, if we followed the conventional ratio of 2 to 4 soldiers wounded for 1 soldier dead, the number of incapacitated soldiers would be around 20,000 to 40,000. That is not a small number, but it sure is way less than the estimated number of casualties on the Russian side.

This number of killed every day has since gone up, with Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak stating that they are losing over 200 men daily due to continued and intensified Russian shelling.

“Our demands for artillery are not just some kind of whim… but an objective need when it comes to the situation on the battlefield,” Podolyak said.

He also reiterated that they needed more artillery to fend off the Russians. This is compounded by a statement by the deputy head of Ukraine’s military intelligence Vadym Skibitsky, who stated that the invasion was now an “artillery war” and that they were losing “in terms of artillery.”

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“Everything now depends on what [the west] gives us,” Skibitsky said. “Ukraine has one artillery piece to 10 to 15 Russian artillery pieces. Our western partners have given us about 10% of what they have.”

“We have almost used up all of our [artillery] ammunition and are now using 155-caliber NATO standard shells,” adding that 5,000 to 6,000 artillery rounds a day were being used in daily fighting.

However, the situation seems to be at a constant oscillation between the Ukrainian and Russian forces in the east, with the Russians advancing to new areas with the Ukrainians then counter-attacking to get their territory back. The prolonged conflict has now taken a toll on the Ukrainian forces, which were largely seen as the highly motivated troops between the two.

A destroyed US-donated M777 howitzer in Ukraine (Matthew Luxmoore). Source:
A destroyed US-donated M777 howitzer in Ukraine (Matthew Luxmoore/Twitter)

Artillery barrages are probably the most demoralizing weapon of war.  Personal accounts of soldiers written almost since the invention of the cannon repeatedly say their worst experience on the battlefield is being under the relentless pounding of artillery day and night. Seeing their fellow soldiers getting blown up by artillery fire can have a serious demoralizing effect on the psyche of soldiers which is leading to growing problem of desertion every week for Ukraine’s armed forces.

Ukraine probably has a qualitative advantage over Russia in terms of the type of artillery they use, their method of employment and the quality of the troops operating the guns, but such advantages can be all but wiped out by an enemy with a 10-15 to 1 advantage in guns arrayed against you.

The loss of Mariupol and the soldiers defending the Azovstal Iron and Steelworks Plant being held captive by the Russian forces may have also contributed to the loss of fighting spirit among the Ukrainians. According to intel, Ukraine only has some 550 Russian POWs after exchanges were done with the Kremlin. In comparison, Russia has some 5,600 troops held captive, with 2,500 of those being members of the Azov Regiment and the 36th Marine Brigade. These troops are hailed as heroes in Ukraine, often praised as symbols of Ukrainian willpower to defend one’s country. These soldiers face being tried for trumped-up charges against them, with the Russian government labeling them as neo-Nazis who slaughtered civilians in Donbas.

A few days ago, SOFREP reported that British fighters Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner have been sentenced to death along with Moroccan fighter Saaudun Brahim. Aslin and Pinner, originally from the United Kingdom, have served with the Ukrainian Armed Forces ever since they migrated to Ukraine as they married Ukrainian nationals. Both men were reportedly part of the 36th Marine Brigade. The trial and persecution of these men may have also affected the Ukrainian troops’ morale as more and more war crimes trials are being conducted by both sides.

As a result, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on Russia to release the captured Mariupol prisoners as the Russian Government “cannot be trusted,” insinuating that the trials may be shams as western government officials believe. Currently, some 1,000 Mariupol troops have been transferred to mainland Russia for investigation, with the majority of them predicted to undergo war crimes trials.