Col. Ants Kiviselg, head of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Intelligence Center said that Russia still has around four million artillery shells, which can be continue to be used for low-intensity warfare for another year. At the same time, the supply of an additional 350,000 artillery shells from North Korea shows that Russia plans to continue its war against Ukraine for a long time.
Speaking at a Ministry of Defense press conference about the situation on the frontline in Ukraine, Col. Kiviselg said that Russian forces are continuing to launch stronger attacks in two main directions in northeastern Ukraine.
"While during the summer and in September, the number of daily attacks by Russian forces remained stable at between 20 and 40, for the last ten days or, the average has been 76 attacks per day," Kiviselg said.
On the one hand, he said, this demonstrates that despite suffering heavy losses, the Russian forces still have significant capabilities, while also being able to bring in enough additional contracted and volunteer soldiers to keep the frontline stable and reinforce their own attacks. On the other hand, the increased attacks launched by Russian forces show that Russia underestimates the breakthrough made by Ukrainian troops in the direction of Orikhiv.
"It is likely that now, the main objective for the Russian troops is to regain the initiative, which they are trying to achieve by tying up the Ukrainian units, depriving them of their offensive potential and exploiting the window of opportunity for a mechanized attack before the 'rasputitsa,' (the arrival of wet and muddy conditions on the ground making the maneuvering of vehicles far more challenging – ed.)" Kiviselg explained.
According to Kiviselg, there are reports of Russian troops actively reinforcing the approaches to both the Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts, suggesting more intensive attacks are likely to continue in the coming days and weeks in both directions. "At the same time, a breakthrough at the operational level on either side will probably not be possible in the coming weeks," he said.
The EDF colonel then said, that the Ukrainians will continue their attacks in the direction of Crimea. "Ukrainian troops are continuing raids and the possible construction of a bridgehead in Kherson Oblast. At the same time, there is information that Russian troops have also deployed additional units in this direction over recent weeks, which may mean that Russian troops perceive there to be an increasing threat from the Ukrainians," Kiviselg said.
Kiviselg went on to say, that the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam in early June, which resulted in the flooding of the Kherson region on the banks of the Dnipro River, had enabled Russian troops to move units from that area to Zaporizhzhia Oblast to reinforce their defenses there against the Ukrainian offensive. Now, the terrain in the Kherson direction has dried out considerably and the river has become narrower, creating better conditions for a potential river crossing operation. It is possible that the main objective for the Ukrainian troops is to tie up Russian units, which, according to the latest intelligence, they are achieving."
Kiviselg added, that during the past week, there have been reports of an ammunition and artillery shipment from North Korea to Russia.
"There have been reports of up to 1,000 sea containers being shipped to Tikhoretsk in Krasnodar Krai. Assuming that one sea container can hold 300-350 pieces of artillery ammunition, it can be said that a total of 300,000 – 350,000 pieces have been transferred. Considering that the daily consumption of artillery ammunition by the Russian troops is 10,000 pieces, this amount would be enough to last around one month," Kiviselg said.
"According to our calculations, Russia should still have around four million pieces of ammunition left. This [means they] could continue at the current relatively low intensity of [using] 10,000 rounds per day for just over a year," Kiviselg said.
Thus, according to Kiviselg, supplying ammunition to the front is not necessarily the primary aim or an unavoidable necessity. Rather, it is a matter of stockpiling for the long term. "The supplies from North Korea indicate that Russia plans to continue its war in Ukraine for a long time and is taking concrete steps towards doing so," Kiviselg said.
Editor: Michael Cole