Today's D Brief: Russia attacks Ukrainian civilians; Zelenskyy's plea; More US troops to the Baltics; IMF's warning; And a bit more.

We’re nearly two weeks into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and already the conflict has displaced a minimum of around two million Ukrainians and produced Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II. 

Moscow allegedly violated two different ceasefire attempts over the weekend, firing rockets and artillery at civilians as they tried to flee several besieged Ukrainian towns like Irpin, as well as the key port city of Mariupol. Russian artillery also killed a mother and her two children as they fled Irpin on Saturday. New York Times photographer Lynsey Addario witnessed the attack, which you can read more about here. The Associated Press has the latest on ceasefire talks, here.

Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy really wants aircraft from Western nations, he told around 200 U.S. lawmakers in an extraordinary video conference call that lasted for almost an hour on Saturday. Bloomberg reported on the call after it was made public thanks to live tweets from Republican senators like Marco Rubio of Florida and Steve Daines of Montana—tweets that drew selective outrage over allegations they violated operational security, as requested by Ukrainian officials. NBC News has a bit more.

The problem with Zelenskyy’s aircraft plea? Most observers—and Russia’s military—view sending their jets to Ukraine as a direct confrontation with Moscow. And that, of course, would almost surely draw much of Europe into the continent’s biggest war since Hitler invaded Poland. And so the more practical audience for Zelenskyy’s plea may actually only be his fellow countrymen who want their president to “try everything” to save the whole of Ukraine from Russian annexation. The Drive breaks down that “hail mary” in greater detail. 

New: The U.S. will send 400 more troops to Lithuania, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday during a stopover in the Baltic nation. 

And Russia is allegedly trying to recruit foreign fighters from Syria to take Kyiv, U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal. “It is unclear how many fighters have been identified, but some are already in Russia preparing to enter the conflict.” And for Kyiv, an estimated 16,000 foreigners have allegedly volunteered to fight for Ukraine’s “international legion,” according to remarks from Zelenskyy last week. 

Coverage continues below the fold…

From Defense One

Putin Lost the Digital War Abroad. Will He Lose at Home? // Patrick Tucker: Its diplomatic efforts in tatters, its agencies beset by cyber vigilantes, the Russian government is still choking off the information that fuels its homegrown protest movement.

Will Russia Go Nuclear? // Tom Z. Collina: Probably not, but that ultimately depends on factors out of our control, including Putin himself.

If Russia Hacks a US Satellite, Is It an Act of War? // Brandi Vincent: After a Russian official issued dire warnings against tampering with satellites, U.S. officials declined to follow suit.

Send More Aid to Taiwan, Before It’s Too Late // Eric Sayers and Dustin Walker: The emergency supplemental bill should be just the prelude to a larger annual military aid package.

Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense Business Brief: Defense spending expected to rise in response to Russian invasion; General pushes for new ICBMs; Carlisle to leave NDIA; and a bit more.

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1900, Germany’s large passenger liner, SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, became the first ship to send wireless signals to shore. At the outbreak of war 14 years later, at least eight guns were added and it was converted to an auxiliary cruiser. But she only lasted three weeks in the conflict before a battle with the Brits left her scuttled off the coast of northwest Africa. 

The IMF warns “severe consequences” are coming for the global economy, especially for families whose largest expenses are food and fuel. And those consequences are set to endure for a fairly long time, according to a statement released Saturday.
Thousands of Russians took to the streets over the weekend in cities across the increasingly walled-off nation. More than 3,000 of them had been arrested by Sunday, the New York Times reported, calling it “the highest nationwide total officially reported in any single day of protest in recent memory.”
On the other hand: Inside Russia, state authorities just launched a new propaganda campaign to raise the profile of the “Z” you might have seen painted on Russia’s invading forces’ equipment. The Wilson Center’s Kamil Galeev elaborates in a Twitter thread, (brace yourself—it’s a wild ride) here.
Papal war of words. “War is madness; please stop,” Pope Francis said Sunday, according to CBS News. “This is not just a military operation, but a war, which sows death, destruction, and misery,” he added, rebutting Vladimir Putin’s framing of the conflict. “The number of victims is increasing, as are the people fleeing, especially mothers and children,” Pope Francis said.
But Russia’s own Orthodox Patriarch, naturally, feels very different from Pope Francis, Kirill of Moscow said in his Sunday sermon. “According to him the West essentially organises genocide campaigns against countries that refuse to stage gay parades,” the Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Luxmoore reported, sharing video of the sermon on Twitter.
Tonight on Capitol Hill: Senators from the Foreign Relations Committee will receive a classified briefing on the latest developments in Ukraine, Chad Pergram of Fox reports.
Related reading: 

China says it will raise its defense spending by 7.1%, which is more than last year but not as high as 2019, CNBC reported on Saturday. That would bring the total to around 1.45 trillion yuan, $230.16 billion.
By comparison, “The total U.S. defense budget for 2022 comes in just under $770 billion, up 2% from last year,” CNBC reminds us. A tiny bit more, here

And lastly: An F/A-18D recently crashed on the property of Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina of “hiking the Appalachian Trail” infamy.
Both Marines on the airplane were able to eject safely, the Marine Corps Times reported over the weekend. The jet was flying out of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C.