Today's D Brief: Terror in Mariupol; 10 million Ukrainians displaced; Houthis barrage Saudi cities; Osprey crash kills 4 Marines; And a bit more.
Ukrainians in the port city of Mariupol are refusing a Russian order to leave the city, despite threats that they will be killed in an assault or deported to Russia (which would also be a war crime), according to Mariupol’s city council. The broad consensus among observers of Russia’s stalled invasion of Ukraine, which is in its fourth week, is that Moscow will continue to attack civilian population centers as a way of terrorizing Ukrainians out of their own country.
Russian troops attacked a home for the elderly in Luhansk, killing 56 people, the New York Times reported Sunday. “They just adjusted the tank, put it in front of the house and started firing,” an official told Times.
Vladimir Putin’s forces have attacked hospitals across Ukraine more than 50 times so far, World Health Organization officials announced Monday. At least 14 people have died in those attacks, and another 36 have been injured.
Update: 10 million people have been displaced throughout Ukraine, the United Nations’ refugee chief Filippo Grandi announced Sunday on Twitter. At least 25,000 have made it as far as Spain, officials in Madrid said Monday.
When operational security and reporting may seem to collide: The Washington Post’s Steve Hendrix lifted the veil on the flow of arms to Ukraine on Friday, writing all about “long-distance convoys [that] deliver armor-plated pickups, repainted SUVs, body armor, and other vital gear at clandestine handoffs” along a route from Poland. The Economist’s Oliver Carroll rode the rails in Ukraine last week to deliver us a harrowing report on the Odessa-Kyiv line. One chilling excerpt: “You can’t see much, because, like the rest of the train, the car travels in darkness. That is a wartime precaution to avoid becoming a target. But if you put your ear to the locked carriage door, you can make out groans.” More behind the paywall, here.
The Russian army is still about 10 to 15 miles from Kyiv, the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said in a Washington Post live event Monday morning. “We don’t want to go back to U.S.S.R.; we want to be part of European future,” Klitschko said as he pleaded in English.
German and Dutch troops are in Slovakia operating Patriot anti-missile systems, Reuters reported Sunday from Prague. The Patriots are in Slovakia not to replace the host country’s Soviet-made S-300 air defense system as part of a scheme to grant Kyiv defensive weapons; but rather the German and Dutch troops are reinforcing the Slovaks as part of a new NATO battlegroup there. Read more at Reuters.
U.S. President Joe Biden is ringing up several European leaders this morning to discuss the latest developments in and around Ukraine. The list includes French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Australia just banned aluminum exports to Russia, which could impact Moscow’s munitions factories, the Guardian reported Sunday.
The U.S. is offering a reward of up to $5 million to help locate Russian oligarchs’ yachts, mansions, private jets and more. The Treasury Department announced the rewards as part of its “Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Rewards Program.” The information must lead “to the (1) the restraint or seizure (2) forfeiture or (3) repatriation of stolen assets in an account at a U.S. financial institution (including a U.S. branch of a foreign financial institution), that come within the United States, or that come within the possession or control of any U.S. person,” Treasury says.
Fine print: Don’t bother calling in a tip if you are not a U.S. citizen or you “are convicted of criminal conduct arising from [your] role in the underlying corruption.” Details here.
Related: The U.S. Commerce Department shared a list of oligarch-owned aircraft tail numbers to help “notify all persons and companies in the United States and abroad that providing any form of service to these aircraft may constitute a violation” of sanctions. That, here.
Read (or watch) more:
- “VIDEO: Navy Pilots Flying Dozens of Daily Russian Deterrence Missions from USS Harry S. Truman,” via U.S. Naval Institute News, reporting Saturday from the Ionian Sea;
- “Biden warns Xi of global backlash if China helps Russia’s attack on Ukraine,” from CNBC, reporting Friday;
- “Biden’s call with Xi underscores deepening bilateral deadlock,” from Politico on Friday as well;
- “Xi says improper handling of Taiwan issues will hit China-U.S. ties,” via Reuters, on that same phone call;
- “Russia blocks ships carrying grain exports,” via Germany’s Deutsche Welle, reporting last Thursday;
- And “Norway economy faces negative impact from Ukraine war, statistics agency says,” Reuters reported Friday from Oslo.
From Defense One
The US Needs a Center to Counter Foreign Malign Influence at Home // Brian Murphy: National security entities coordinate their fight against disinformation abroad. They need a way to do so within our borders.
Congress Still Needs to Protect America’s NATO Membership // Scott R. Anderson: Trump was closer than anyone realized to pulling the U.S. out of NATO. Lawmakers must ensure that never happens without them.
Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense Business Brief: Why backfilling arms stockpiles isn’t easy; Europe goes weapons shopping; Japan gets first Global Hawk; and 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 1918, the German military began its spring offensive before U.S. troops began arriving en masse to reinforce the Western front.
Four U.S. Marines died Friday from an Osprey crash during large NATO drills in Norway called Cold Response. “Bodø, Norway, was experiencing rain, heavy cloud cover, and strong winds with gusts as high as 52 miles per hour when the accident took place,” Marine Corps Times reported Sunday.
All four were from the North Carolina-based Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261. Their names are Capt. Matthew J. Tomkiewicz, 27, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Capt. Ross A. Reynolds, 27, of Leominster, Massachusetts, Gunnery Sgt. James W. Speedy, 30, of Cambridge, Ohio, and Cpl. Jacob M. Moore, 24, of Catlettsburg, Kentucky. MCT has a bit more on each Marine, here.
Related reading: “Marine Corps ends all 3 of its [post-Benghazi] crisis response deployments,” also via MCT, reporting Friday. Those units—Marine Air Ground Task Forces—fanned out across the Southern Command, Africa Command, and Central Command areas of responsibility. Now the rising threat posed by China has forced the Corps to reorganize. More on the history of that effort, here.
Don’t miss: “AP Exclusive: US admiral says China fully militarized isles,” via AP’s Jim Gozen and Aaron Favilla, traveling with Indo-Pacific commander Adm. John Aquilino over the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago this weekend.
Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen attacked Saudi Arabia on Sunday using drones and missiles that targeted Saudi water treatment facilities as well as oil and natural gas infrastructure.
At least one of the strikes hit the Yanbu Aramco Sinopec Refining Company, whose CEO said the attack triggered “a temporary reduction in the refinery’s production.” Another hit a gas plant on the Red Sea port city of Yanbu, a desalination plant also on the Red Sea coast, and an oil facility in the southern city of Jizan. “The attacks on Sunday came as Saudi Arabia’s state-backed Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, announced its profits surged 124% in 2021 to $110 billion, a jump fueled by renewed anxieties about global supply shortages and soaring oil prices,” the Associated Press reported Sunday from Dubai.
“The Houthis launch these terrorist attacks with enabling by Iran, which supplies them with missile and UAV components, training, and expertise,” White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement Sunday evening. “It is time to bring this war to a close, but that can only happen if the Houthis agree to cooperate with the United Nations and its envoy working on a step-by-step a process to de-escalate the conflict,” Sullivan said, and added, “The United States stands fully behind those efforts, and we will continue to fully support our partners in the defense of their territory from Houthi attacks.” A possible truce for the Saudi-led war was also under discussion in Oman this weekend, involving Houthi and UN diplomats, but not Saudi officials. The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is the current target for that improbable ceasefire, which could begin in early April.
Bigger picture: “Negotiations have floundered since the Houthis have tried to capture oil-rich Marib, one of the last remaining strongholds of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government in the country’s north,” according to AP. More here.
North Korea fired off a few more pieces of artillery into the Yellow Sea on Sunday, South Korea’s military told Yonhap news agency. The North seems to have used multiple rocket launch systems for this latest salvo, which was allegedly fired from the country’s western coast in South Pyongan Province.
Related reading: “N. Korea masses more than 6,000 troops to prepare for apparent military parade,” also via Yonhap, reporting Monday, ahead of the 110th birthday for Kim Il-sung on April 15.
A key U.S. security official dropped by Kosovo last week, which is where the U.S. has sent Afghan evacuees who have not yet passed security screenings. Assistant to the President for Homeland Security Liz Sherwood-Randall led the team as they met with Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu and Prime Minister Albin Kurti. Sherwood-Randall’s delegation also visited U.S. military facilities at Camp Liya and Camp Bondsteel, the latter of which is known to host hundreds of Afghans. Tiny bit more from the White House, here.
Related reading: “Afghanistan’s last finance minister, now a D.C. Uber driver, ponders what went wrong,” via the Washington Post’s Greg Jaffe, reporting Friday.
And lastly: The U.S. State Department says Myanmar’s military committed “genocide” in 2017 when security forces raped and killed at least 730,000 of the country’s Muslim minority Rohingya.
This now makes just the sixth time the State Department has formally used the term, according to Reuters, which broke news of the determination Sunday. “The step comes after two State Department examinations—one initiated in 2018 and the other in 2020—failed to produce a determination,” Reuters reports. The other five allegations of genocide concerned killings in Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq, Darfur, and more recently the Islamic State group and China for its treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslims.
What this means: It opens the path for increased sanctions on Myanmar’s military leadership, which the U.S. hit with sanctions shortly after the generals took charge in a coup about 13 months ago, just days after U.S. President Joe Biden took office. The woman who won Myanmar’s Nov. 2020 election, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been detained by the generals since the coup and could face more than 100 years in prison, according to the charges brought forward by the junta. CNN has more, here.