By David Sole
In an attempt to disrupt Ukraine’s preparations for a much talked about Spring offensive, the Russian Federation has been pounding Ukrainian weapons depots and troop concentrations. Many reports have been appearing about Russian drone attacks and missile strikes, including by the hypersonic Kinshal.
A major ammunition depot was destroyed on May 13 in the western Ukrainian city of Khmelnytskyi. MSN reported that a viral video “shows huge mushroom cloud rising into the sky after Russian Aerospace Forces hit Ukrainian military objects in the city.” An unconfirmed report cited in the same article claimed that “the value of the ammunition destroyed in the Khmelnytskyi ammunition depot is about 500 million dollars.”
Other reports suggest that the facility stored depleted Uranium (dU) shells that have been supplied to Ukraine by the United Kingdom. The massive mushroom cloud seen in the circulating videos would then contain dU dust which could be spread widely around Ukraine and beyond.
Extremely dense dU is used to enhance the penetration of bullets and tank shells through steel armored vehicles. It also emits radiation. Thus dU poses both radiation danger and heavy metal poisoning danger for those who breathe in the dust or ingest particles that become incorporated into plants and animals on farms.
Only three days prior an ammunition depot in the area of Zaporizhzhia was reportedly destroyed along with numerous Ukrainian troops. The Russian Defense Ministry, quoted by CNN, stated “an ammunition depot of the 65th mechanized brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was destroyed…”
TASS News Agency also reported on May 18 that “Russian forces hit Kiev’s large foreign equipment and armament depots and army reserves with seaborne and air-launched precision weapons, destroying substantial weapon and ammunition stockpiles…”
Ukraine also faces problems from the vast Russian air superiority which could impede the advance of any offensive attacks. Newsweek wondered, on May 5, “Will Putin Unleash Russia’s Colossal Air Force on Ukraine?” which “is still the world’s second largest and includes approximately 900 fighter jets and 120 bombers, which is a significant ace to hold ahead of the widely anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive.”
Apparently Russia has also developed the ability to jam the much touted Himars missiles, supplied by the U.S., and that can reach behind the front lines of contact. According to CNN in a May 6 article “Russia has been thwarting US-made mobile rocket systems in Ukraine…using electronic jammers to throw off the GPS guided targeting system to cause the rockets to miss their targets.”
Ukraine’s problems are not just military. The widely reported corruption throughout the Ukraine government has creeped into the country’s Supreme Court. The Chief Judge of that court was arrested on May 17. Vsevolod Knyazev was picked up and large sums of U.S. dollars were found in his home and office. “Prosecutors also accused a lawyer of acting as an intermediary in paying a bribe to the chief judge, and said that at least three other judges of the court had been found holding thousands of dollars in currency marked by investigators.”
Ukraine is hoping that a military offensive will go well despite the battlefield disadvantages it faces. It depends on continuing to receive billions of dollars’ worth of weapons and other aid from the U.S. and other NATO countries. Should Ukraine’s offensive fail it is likely that waning public support in the West could dry up the flow of funds.
But it is also possible that if Ukraine’s offensive falters the U.S/NATO hard-liners will press for a dangerous escalation and a more direct involvement in the fighting.