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Putin's regime lacks domestic capacity to supply enough ammunition for his Ukraine forces, say western officials

Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine is set to enter its third year (AP)
Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine is set to enter its third year (AP)

Vladimir Putin’s regime does not have sufficient domestic capacity to supply enough ammunition for his forces locked in the Ukraine war, western officials said on Wednesday.

But they do not believe he has given up on his “maximalist goals of subjugating Ukraine”.

However, they questioned whether Putin has a “meaningful plan” beyond continuing the conflict in the hope that his willingness to throw Russian manpower and equipment in sufficient quantity into the warzone will eventually pay off.

“Russia’s domestic ammunition production capabilities are currently insufficient for meeting the needs of the Ukraine conflict,” said one western official.

North Korea is reported to have been shipping large quantities of ammunition to Russia, and Iran to have provided hundreds of “kamikaze” drones.

Putin’s regime has also reportedly been “requisitioning military equipment” which it was planning to send to other states.

But Russian forces have seized the city of Avdiivka as Ukrainian troops, suffering ammunition and artillery shortages, were forced to withdrew.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CNN that Avdiivka would not have fallen had Kyiv received weapons held up by the US Congress’ failure to approve a large aid package.

The United States has provided Ukraine with about $111 billion (£88 billion), largely in weapons but also equipment and humanitarian assistance, and a new aid package of $95 billion (£75 billion) is stalled in Congress after passing the Senate, with Republicans blocking the move to further support Kyiv.

Britain has urged Allies to continue to provide military, aid and diplomatic support to Ukraine to defeat Putin.

After the failure of Ukraine to pierce Russian front lines in the east and south last year, Moscow has been trying to grind down Ukrainian forces just as Kyiv ponders a major new mobilisation.

Meanewhile, European Union states on Wednesday approved a 13th package of Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia, banning nearly 200 entities and individuals accused of helping Moscow procure weapons or of involvement in kidnapping Ukrainian children.

“We must keep degrading Putin’s war machine,” tweeted European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“We are also further cutting Russia’s access to drones.”

The new package will see 193 entities and individuals added to the list of those banned from traveling to the EU or doing business there, but no fresh measures against specific economic sectors, EU diplomatic sources said.

The sources said the focus of the listings is roughly split between entities and individuals that are part of Russia’s military industrial complex and those involved in trafficking and kidnapping Ukrainian children.

One North Korean and one Belarusian firm were also added, the sources said.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said last March that Russia had transferred “at least hundreds” of children from orphanages and care homes in occupied regions of Ukraine, and “many” have been given up for adoption.

The ICC indicted officials including Putin for abducting Ukrainian children, which it called a war crime.

Ukraine says Russia has removed more than 4,000 children.

The new measures also focus on the procurement network supporting Russia’s military, especially the supply chain to make drones. Twenty-seven companies were added to the Annex IV list, which means European firms cannot sell dual-use goods to them.

The companies added are mostly Russian and include three mainland Chinese firms and one Hong Kong-based company, the sources said.

The package will be formally approved in time for the second anniversary of the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

In eastern Ukraine, Russia’s top general, Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, visited Russian troops to discuss the next steps after capturing Avdiivka in the Donetsk province, state media reported on Wednesday.

Putin’s forces seized the city after suffering heavy losses, with reports of more than 1,000 Russian soldiers killed or wounded in a single day.

The Russian president said on Tuesday that his military would push further into Ukraine after the fall of Avdiivka.

Gerasimov was shown awarding medals to Russian troops involved in taking Avdiivka and he was given a report by the commander in charge of the Russian assault, Colonel-General Andrei Mordvichev, state media said.