‘We’re running out of weapons’ on Ukraine front line’

A year ago, Volodymyr and his men were firing all 40 barrels of their BM-21 Grad rocket launcher in one go. Now they can only afford to fire a few at a time at Russian targets.

“We haven’t got enough ammunition for our weapon,” he explains.

His unit, the 17th Tank Battalion, is still being called on to provide fire support to Ukrainian forces desperately clinging on to the edges of Bakhmut, the eastern Ukrainian city which Russia has spent months trying to capture.

Russian forces are getting ever closer to their goal of taking the city, but at enormous cost.

While we’re waiting in a line of trees, hidden from view, Volodymyr receives a call to fire his rocket launcher at a Russian mortar position about 15 kilometres away.

His men remove the branches camouflaging their vehicle. They drive towards an empty field about a kilometre away and quickly work out the range.

They elevate the rocket barrels towards the target while, out of sight, a Ukrainian drone hovering above assesses their accuracy.

They’re told their first rocket misses by about 50 metres, so they adjust the elevation and fire another two and quickly return to the trees for cover. This time they’re told they’ve hit the target.

Volodymyr, however, is frustrated they can’t do more. “We could have provided more support to our guys who are dying there.”

He says Ukraine has already burned through its own stocks of Grad ammunition, so is relying on rockets sourced from other countries. Volodymyr says supplies are coming from the Czech Republic, Romania and Pakistan. He complains the rockets originating from Pakistan are “not of a good quality”.

Ukraine’s call for more weapons and ammunition has only become louder the longer the war has gone on. The focus now is preparing for a major offensive. But at the same time, Ukraine is still having to expend huge resources on just maintaining its position.

Despite the recent arrival of modern weapons – like tanks and armoured vehicles – Ukraine remains heavily reliant on its older, Soviet-era arsenal. -BBC

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