Today's D Brief: Russian strikes hit Kyiv, Kharkiv; 40-mile convoy coming; EU nixes jet plans; 660,000 refugees so far; And a bit more.
Day six of Russia’s Ukraine invasion: “Undisguised terror.” That’s how Ukraine’s embattled president described Russian military actions nearly a week into Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, an invasion that’s increasingly targeting the eastern city of Kharkiv and the northern capital city of Kyiv with intense air and artillery strikes.
Russia appears to have launched a rocket at Kharkiv’s central square and administrative building at around 8 a.m. local time. Cars were queued for a traffic light beside the building when the rocket exploded, sending a massive fireball into the air and obliterating many nearby large objects, including several automobiles. The Kharkiv strike was captured on closed circuit television, and you can observe the incident in video, here.
Said President Volodymir Zelenskyy this morning: “The rocket aimed at the central square of Kharkiv is an outright, undisguised terror. After that, Russia is a terrorist state. No one will forgive. No one will forget.”
New: Russia’s military says similar strikes will happen soon in Kyiv, with specific mention of “the facilities of the [Ukraine’s security services] and the 72nd main center of the [Ukrainian military’s Center for Information and Psychological Operations]” in order “to suppress information attacks against Russia.”
Developing: There is a 40-mile long convoy of Russian trucks and vehicles heading for Kyiv, imaging firm Maxar reported Monday evening (see NPR, e.g.) in a slate of new imagery.
- And don’t miss this superb read on Russian military logistics from U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alex Vershinin, writing in War on the Rocks back in Nov. 2021.
Update: Europe won’t be transferring fighter jets to Ukraine after all, Politico’s Paul McClearly reported Tuesday morning—a day after Russia threatened nations arming Ukraine, via its state-run Interfax news agency.
And so, it’s worth asking: Why did Joseph Burrell of the European Union announce such a move Sunday without finalizing the deal first? Unclear; but there would seem to be at least a short-term psychological benefit to such a move—declaring to Russian officers paying attention (if there are any) that the risks could grow exponentially quite soon. The mid-term consequences of the deal not actually happening, though, could diminish Burrell’s standing and reputation. But none of that is possible to know at this early stage of Russia’s Ukraine invasion.
Stoltenberg to E. Europe. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has planned trips to Poland and Estonia today. “Putin’s war affects us all and NATO Allies will always stand together to defend and protect each other,” Stoltenberg said during his first stop in Warsaw.
And French forces arrived in Romania today as a “lead element” in the alliance’s response. “Our commitment to Article 5, our collective defense clause, is iron-clad,” Stoltenberg told Polish troops Tuesday. A bit more from NATO, here.
Also in Poland today: NATO's Supreme Allied Commander U.S. Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, U.S. Army Europe and Africa Command's Gen. Chris Cavoli, and Army Lt. Gen. Erik Kurilla, who was just confirmed to lead U.S. Central Command. (Hat tip to John Vandiver of Stars and Stripes.)
Human flow: At least 660,000 Ukrainians have fled Ukraine and are now refugees, the United Nations announced Tuesday, and said, “At this rate, the situation looks set to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century.” Right now, it’s taking about 60 hours to enter Poland from Ukraine, and about 20 hours to enter Romania, according to the UN.
Honorable mention headlines:
- “The European Union prepares for millions of refugees from Ukraine,” via Germany’s Deutsche Welle newspaper;
- “Putin is turning the EU into a foreign policy superpower,” via Axios, reporting Monday from Washington;
- “Within Days, Russia’s War on Ukraine Squeezes the Global Economy,” via the New York Times, reporting Tuesday from London.
A bit more below the fold…
From Defense One
Ukraine Braces for Sharper Russian Cyber Attacks // Patrick Tucker: Kyiv recruits "IT Army," receives satellite terminals. But worse is to come, says Senate intel committee chair.
Despite U.S.-Russia Tensions, the First All-Commercial Flight to ISS is Still On // Brandi Vincent: An initial launch is set for late March, officials confirmed.
Ukraine Offers to Pay Russians Who Surrender, While Pentagon Assesses Moscow’s Nuke Posture // Tara Copp: As logistics woes slow Russian drive, Kyiv dangles 5-million-ruble payment.
Can Ukraine Really Use Donated Fighter Jets? That Depends // Marcus Weisgerber: After EU says it will send some aircraft to Ukraine, a retired U.S. fighter chief explains how that might work.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad and Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1871, the Prussian army marched through the streets of Paris after its four-month siege of the city came to an end. That same year, one of the Prussian officers in that operation, Helmuth von Moltke, would deliver one of the most durable lessons of warfare, and one that remains applicable to this day: “No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.”
Turkey is calling for a ceasefire in Ukraine today, according to Ankara’s defense minister, who spoke with his Russian counterpart by phone, the Associated Press reports.
It took six days, but China’s top diplomat finally spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart on Tuesday. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he’s asked China to mediate a ceasefire, but China is not terribly keen on that idea just yet. However, at least on paper, China “supports all constructive international efforts that are conducive to a political solution,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Tuesday. More from the Wall Street Journal or Reuters.
Back stateside, legal reviews are allegedly slowing the flow of U.S. intel to the Ukrainian military, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said Tuesday—just hours after senators received a classified briefing on Ukraine. “Knowing where a Russian tank was 10 hours ago isn’t very useful to a Ukrainian who’s trying to defend” his country and family, he told NPR’s Steve Inskeep. “We are sending them intelligence, but we have lawyers delaying the process at way, way too many steps,” said Sasse, who serves on the Senate intelligence committee. When asked to specify, Sasse said, “There are a bunch of technicalities about intelligence in general, versus targeting information in particular.”
Sasse’s recommendation: Move that info faster. “If Zelenskyy’s government falls, it’s going to be much, much harder to share intelligence with any confidence with partners that are waging some sort of insurgency war, as opposed to having an actual military.” More, here.
FWIW: Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., says Kyiv could stand for several weeks. That’s just one of several observations he shared in a Twitter thread following the Monday evening briefing.
In the Senate today: “Global Security Challenges and Strategy,” (which is an open hearing) and “U.S. hostage policy” (closed) go under the microscope for lawmakers with the Senate’s Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees. Those began at 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m., respectively.
And in the House: “Engagement with Allies and Partners,” featuring Mara Karlin of the Pentagon and Jessica Lewis of the State Department; that’s already happening before the full House Armed Services Committee.
And “budget season” kicks off today as the Pentagon’s top nuclear officer joins his counterparts at NORAD and Space Command for a “Fiscal Year 2023 Strategic Forces Posture Hearing” before HASC’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces. That begins at 2 p.m. ET.
CNO Gilday dropped by a key east coast naval base. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday and Connecticut Democrat Rep. Joe Courtney visited the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyards at Quonset Point, R.I., and Groton, Conn., on Monday.
The National Guard is on standby for tonight’s State of the Union address. “While there are no specific or credible threats” related to the speech, “law enforcement officials are taking no chances” after the events of Jan. 6, 20201, AP reports.
Related: Trucker protests fizzle. Two of the trucker protests that were supposed to have snarled traffic in the D.C. region have died “due to lack of participation,” according to AP. However, the largest one is now in Oklahoma, with plans to reach D.C. by Saturday—which is, of course, several days past the State of the Union address.
Mullen to Taiwan. President Biden is sending a delegation of former senior officials, led by former Joint Chiefs chairman Mike Mullen, to Taiwan to show support, Reuters reported Monday. Taiwan has raised its alert level out of concern that China may take advantage of the world’s focus on Ukraine to make a move on the island.
And lastly today: The Taliban is telling Afghans they can’t leave the country without a good reason, and that women can’t travel without a chaperone, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. At one checkpoint on the road from Kabul to Pakistan, Taliban fighters were pulling over drivers and questioning them. “Why are you going to Pakistan? You shouldn’t go to Pakistan,” they said. “You should stay here and help build your country.” More here.