Russia Likely Rationing Shells Amid Ammunition Shortage

Russia has likely resorted to rationing shells for use in its war against Ukraine amid a shortage of artillery ammunition, the British Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday.

In its latest assessment of the conflict in Ukraine, which hit the one-year mark on February 24, the ministry noted that in recent weeks, Russia's ammunition shortage has worsened significantly.

The assessment comes days after Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, said Russia is beginning to run low on a stockpile of weapons its military has maintained for decades. Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the Wagner Group paramilitary unit that has led the months-long offensive in Bakhmut, has also made desperate pleas for more ammunition for his fighters.

Ukrainian medic "Doc" outside of Bakhmut
Ukrainian medic "Doc" with the 28th Brigade runs through a partially dug trench along the frontline on March 05, 2023 outside of Bakhmut, Ukraine. Russian forces have been attacking Ukrainian troops as part of an offensive to encircle Bakhmut in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region. John Moore/Getty Images

Russia's ammunition shortages "have likely worsened to the extent that extremely punitive shell-rationing is in force on many parts of the front," the British defense ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

The ministry said this worsening shortage has almost certainly been a key reason why no Russian formation has recently been able to generate operationally significant offensive action in Ukraine.

"Russia has almost certainly already resorted to issuing old munitions stock which were previously categorized as unfit for use," it said.

The update noted that a decree signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 3 outlined measures for the Ministry of Trade and Industry to "bypass the authority of the managers of defense industries who fail to meet their production goals."

"Russia is increasingly applying the principles of a command economy to its military industrial complex because it recognizes that its defense manufacturing capacity is a key vulnerability in the increasingly attritional 'special military operation,'" the ministry concluded.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Twitter user Dmitri of the War Translated project, an independent project concerned with translating various materials about the war in Ukraine, shared a video of a regional politician bemoaning a lack of ammunition, even suggesting that it may be sabotage.

"Yury Mezinov, a 'A Just Russia' party functionary from the Rostov region, claims the shortage of ammunition in the Russian army is felt along the whole frontline. He believes it is sabotage as he cannot find another explanation," Dmitri wrote as a caption.

Speaking angrily into the camera, Mezinov said that along the front line, "we have a command to attack."

"We attack without fire support. Do we have problems with metal? Problems with metallurgists? Who can tell me? How is this possible? How is this limit possible?"

He went on: "I think it's sabotage, it's sabotage, call it what you want. I'm confident that responsible departments must be looking into it very closely."

Prigozhin has accused Russia's Defense Ministry of treason, saying government officials are intentionally withholding the ammunition needed to secure victory in Bakhmut.

In an audio clip posted by the Prigozhin-owned Concord company on February 22, he said he was told that Russia's Defense Ministry was claiming it had been distributing ammunition to volunteer units around Bakhmut, a claim he refuted.

"Wagner PMC is not receiving 80 percent of the ammo required to complete combat objectives," he said. "Therefore, the announcement by the Ministry of Defense is nothing more than a spit in the face for Wagner PMC, and an attempt to hide their crimes against the fighters who are today completing a feat in Bakhmut."

Prigozhin has said his fighters were "dying en masse" because of a shortage of ammunition.

Newsweek has contacted Russia's Defense Ministry by email for comment.

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