Today's D Brief: Ukraine strikes inside Russia; Arizona, Australia lend a hand; NATO's Black Sea warning; China and Russia, BFFs; And a bit more.
Ukraine pilots reportedly carried out cross-border airstrikes on or near an oil depot inside Russia overnight, according to videos (like this, this and this) shared online Thursday evening. The depot (Reuters calls it a “logistics hub”) was located in Belgorod, which is about 18 miles from Ukraine’s eastern border, near the city of Kharkiv.
One obvious takeaway: If it was indeed a Ukrainian helicopter assault, infiltrating “such a heavily militarized area to make such a brazen attack would be a damning indictment of Russia's air defense capabilities,” Tyler Rogoway of The Drive wrote Friday.
Weekend forecast: Ukrainian soldiers are still pushing back on the invading forces, including around Kyiv. And they “will likely assault Russian-held Bucha and Hostomel in the coming days,” analysts at the Institute for the Study of War predicted in a Thursday evening roundup. Meanwhile Thursday, “Russian forces only conducted offensive operations in Donbas and against Mariupol in the last 24 hours and did not make any major advances,” according to ISW.
Russian forces blocked 45 evacuation buses from entering Mariupol on Thursday, and Moscow’s troops “also seized 14 tons of food and medical supplies” meant for Mariupol’s besieged citizens on Thursday, the Associated Press reports. But select evacuations have reportedly begun from Mariupol, according to the New York Times, which cites the city’s mayor and officials from the International Committee for the Red Cross. More than 50 buses are queued up for the job, which Russia allegedly authorized in a limited capacity on Thursday.
New: Australia says it’s sending armored Bushmaster vehicles to Ukraine, one day after Ukraine’s president addressed the Australian parliament and asked for off-road vehicles. AP has more, here.
And Arizona’s governor says the state is sending 9,000 pounds of protective gear to Ukraine. That includes 17 pallets containing “874 bullet proof vests, 77 helmets, miscellaneous tactical clothing, footwear, pads, and shields.” More at the governor’s office, here.
NATO says the Black Sea is now awash with drifting mines “in the Northwest, West, and Southwest areas.” Best advice: avoid “floating objects, keep the forward area of the ship clear of crew, and [use] effective look-outs,” according to an alert posted Thursday. And just like the first days of the invasion, “The risk of GPS jamming, [maritime automatic identification system, or AIS] spoofing, communications jamming, electronic interference and cyber attacks in the area are considered HIGH,” the alliance warned. Read more, here.
Coverage continues below the fold…
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Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. We don’t have any new jokes for you this morning (here’s an old one), so you can believe what you read here on this April Fools Day. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1954, POTUS34 authorized the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
Developing: The British military said Thursday that Russia is now using 1,000 to 2,000 Georgian separatists to reinforce its Ukraine fronts; the Brits also say it’s “highly unlikely” this was planned.
Putin’s forces are still lingering inside the Chernobyl “exclusion zone,” surrounding the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster. Most Russian troops have exited the nuclear facility proper, Ukrainian officials said Thursday; but not all have departed the nearby region. Reuters and AP have a bit more.
Ukrainian and Russian negotiators are resuming talks today, though (as before) no one on either side anticipates any sort of breakthrough. And the Kremlin is already allegedly very upset over that cross-border strike on or near that oil depot in Belgorod. “Certainly, this is not something that can be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for the continuation of the talks,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday, according to AP.
For the record, Russia is still expecting to annex Ukraine’s eastern Donbas and Luhansk regions by the end of negotiations, Moscow’s top delegate, Vladimir Medinsky, said Wednesday, calling that goal “unchanged.”
China’s Foreign Ministry still blames the U.S. for Russia’s Ukraine invasion, and insists Beijing wants to “resist the Cold War thinking and bloc confrontation.”
In case that was not clear, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian declared Friday that, “As the culprit and leading instigator of the Ukraine crisis, the U.S. has led NATO to engage in five rounds of eastward expansion in the last two decades after 1999.”
He also tried to walk a fine line between support for Russia and China’s keen interest in staying close with European countries. For a bit of insight here, consider this from AP: “EU officials point out that 13.7% of China’s total trade is done with the 27-nation bloc, and 12% with the United States, compared with just 2.4% with Russia.” Reuters has similar coverage today, here.
- “Russia praises India’s neutral stand on Ukraine fighting,” via AP, reporting Friday from New Delhi;
- “Behind the Front Lines, Russia’s Military Struggles to Supply Its Forces,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Friday;
- “Why Russia’s military is bogged down by logistics in Ukraine,” via the Washington Post’s graphics team, reporting Wednesday;
- “Russian gas flows to Europe despite Putin deadline,” via Reuters, reporting Friday;
- “Russia's rouble rebound is not as real as it seems,” also via Reuters on Friday;
- “German Reserve Officer Charged With Spying For Russia,” via Agence France-Presse, reporting Friday;
- “Ukraine Accuses Russia of Using WhatsApp Bot Farm to Ask Military to Surrender,” via Vice News, reporting Friday;
- And “Gerard Depardieu: Kremlin responds to actor's Putin criticism,” via the BBC.
And lastly this week: The U.S. Navy just named a new ship after the recently departed Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Background: “The name selection for the John Lewis-class replenishment oiler follows the naming convention of honoring people who have fought for civil and human rights,” the Navy announced Thursday. “She is instrumental to why we now have women of all backgrounds, experiences, and talents serving within our ranks, side by side with their male sailor and Marine counterparts,” Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said in that statement.
A bit more on the vessel: These “ships are fleet oilers designed to transfer fuel to the Navy’s operating carrier strike groups,” according to the Navy. “The oilers have the ability to carry a load of 162,000 barrels of oil, maintain significant dry cargo capacity, aviation capability, and a speed of 20 knots,” as well as a length of 742 feet. More here.
Elsewhere in the Navy: “Sailor charged in catastrophic Bonhomme Richard fire has trial date set [for Sept. 19],” Navy Times reported Thursday.
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!