Russia says its production of artillery shells has soared by nearly 150% in a year

FILE PHOTO: Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visits troops in Ukraine
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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's defence minister said on Thursday that artillery shell production had risen by nearly 2.5 times in the past year, while artillery component production had soared by a factor of 22 as Moscow races to rearm faster than the West can supply Ukraine.

Russia's current dominance in artillery production is a factor that could help decide the course of the Ukraine war - which is largely fought with artillery and drones - at a time when the West fears Russia is set for more battlefield wins.

CNN reported earlier this month that Russia is producing nearly three times as many artillery munitions as the United States and Europe combined, citing unidentified Western intelligence sources.

At a meeting with weapons manufactures, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said orders to expand artillery production had been successful far earlier than planned and praised workers for putting in round-the-clock shifts.

"After the start of operation of the new facilities, the volume of production actually increased by almost 2.5 times," Shoigu was quoted as saying by his ministry.

"If we talk about the manufacture of artillery ammunition, the volume of production of components for this ammunition has been increased almost 22 times, 75% of components are being restored," he said.

He indicated there were more ambitious targets for this year, but did not give details. One defence worker was shown on state television telling Shoigu that his plant now produces in one month what it used to produce in an entire year.

Russia primarily fires 152-mm and 122-mm shells.

Given the sensitivity of weapons production, Reuters was unable to verify the production of Russian munitions.

President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, something he called a special military operation, in February 2022, triggering a major European war after eight years of conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces on one side and pro-Russian Ukrainians and Russian proxies on the other.

Russia currently controls a little under a fifth of Ukraine and says the territory is now part of Russia. Ukraine says it is the subject of an imperial-style land grab and that it will not rest until every last Russian soldier is ejected from its land.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Mark Potter)