Ukraine awaits weapons infusion as Russia's assault intensifies

The U.S. House of Representatives' passage of a $61 billion package for Ukraine puts the country a step closer to an infusion of new firepower that will be rushed to the front line to fight Moscow's latest attacks. But the clock is ticking, with Russia using all its might to achieve its most significant gains by a May 9 deadline, when Moscow commemorates World War II Victory Day. In the meantime, Kyiv has no choice but to wait for replenishment.

Despite the effort of Ukrainian troops to defend their soil, Russia seized the momentum on the battlefield and forced Kyiv's forces to cede tactically significant territory, one painful yard at a time. Wave after wave of mechanized units came for Tarasenko's brigade. Protected under an umbrella of attack drones and artillery fire, they reached the foot of Chasiv Yar, which is the gateway to Ukraine's defensive backbone in the Donetsk region.

They concentrated disproportionately enormous resources in this direction, said Oleksiy Tarasenko, deputy commander of the 5th Separate Assault Brigade. "The most difficult thing is to cope with this constant onslaught from the enemy, which does not change, even though the enemy is losing a lot of military equipment and soldiers," he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Russia concentrated its forces and equipment for a decisive assault on Donbas.

"Russian commanders apparently reckon that with such an accumulation of forces, they will be able to break through our defenses," Zelenskyy said. "But Russian commanders miscalculated. They miscalculated in the past, and they are miscalculating now."

Ukrainian commanders complained about dire ammunition shortages since late December. By February, heads of artillery units in several regions said they had less than 10% of the supplies they needed as Kyiv rushed to economize shells. Nowhere are supplies more needed than in Chasiv Yar, where after weeks of fierce fighting, Moscow is intent on conquering the town.

Ukraine's commander in chief, Oleksandr Syrski, said Russia's top military leadership ordered its soldiers to capture the town by May 9, Russia's Victory Day, a holiday that marks the defeat of Nazi Germany.

To reach that goal, Russia unleashes daily drone assaults and glide bombs on Ukrainian forces that have no way to counterattack. Time is of the essence, said Yurii Fedorenko, commander of the Achilles battalion of the 92nd brigade in the Chasiv Yar region. "They simply destroyed our positions with massive strikes. Now those positions are constantly hit by artillery, making it impossible to recapture them," he said. "Now we have nothing to answer the enemy with."

Assuming the assistance arrives in the next two months, plans are afoot for a potential late-summer offensive. Analysts argue that future support should not count on one big decisive battle, but a sustained strategy over many years.

But first, Ukraine must hold off Russia's attempts to break defensive lines and entrenched positions.

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