Today's D Brief: Russian strikes kill 7 in Lviv; India drops Russian helos; Pakistan strikes E Afg; Turkey strikes N Iraq; And a bit more.
Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine invasion, day 54: Russian air and artillery strikes pounded several Ukrainian cities overnight Sunday and into Monday, including the far western city of Lviv, after the Kremlin claims to have targeted nearly 300 military locations across the territory of its democratic neighbor.
At least seven people have been killed in Lviv, and another 11 were wounded, Mayor Andriy Sadoviy said on Monday. Reuters reports they’re the first victims of the war in the western city since the invasion began. Lviv is just 40 miles from the Polish border, and has been viewed as a relatively safer refuge—compared to more frontline scenes of devastation like Kharkiv in the east and Mariupol in the south.
Ukrainians in Mariupol are defying a “surrender or die” ultimatum from Russia, with “the last known pocket of resistance in a seven-week siege… holed up in a sprawling steel plant laced with tunnels,” according to the Associated Press, which reports many civilians—including children—are hiding in the Azovstal steel mill as well.
“We will fight absolutely to the end, to the win, in this war,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
Reminder: Russia has three weeks until its May 9 “Victory Day” parade, marking the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945. The Kremlin is reportedly hoping to lock down as many gains as it can inside Ukraine in time for that annual march of military hardware through Moscow’s Red Square. The parade will undoubtedly feel different this year, since so much Russian hardware has been documented in various states of devastation and disrepair (including more than 500 tanks) by Ukrainian forces since late Feb.
And speaking of Russian weapons, India’s air force just canceled a deal to buy 48 Russian Mi-17 helicopters from Moscow, India Today reported Saturday. Officials in New Delhi reportedly stressed that the decision has nothing to do with Russia’s disastrous first few weeks of the war in Ukraine; instead, the decision allegedly centers on India’s desire to make defense equipment indigenously rather than rely on facilities in Kazan, Russia, which is where Mi-17s are produced and manufactured. A bit more to that, here.
Kyiv’s Western allies began moving new armor and weapons to Ukraine on Friday. That includes T-72 tanks, RM-70 multiple launch rocket systems, Mi-17 helicopters, and more—Foreign Policy reported. (You may remember Russia told U.S. officials last week that Moscow is particularly upset over any movement of multiple launch rocket systems to Ukraine. The U.S. wasn’t sending any; but its allies, of course, could do as they pleased with their MLRS; and indeed at least one ally has ignored Moscow’s warning.)
Coverage continues below the fold…
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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 1930, the British Broadcasting Corporation made the extremely rare announcement in its 8:45 p.m. news bulletin that, “There is no news.” Piano music from the Wagner opera Parsifal was played through the remainder of the 15-minute news block.
New poll numbers show Americans overwhelmingly support “all measures short of war” when it comes to support for Ukraine’s military. That’s according to new survey data from the Chicago Council, published Friday. Survey says: “Americans support providing military (79%) and economic (78%) assistance to Ukraine, imposing sanctions on Russia (77%), and taking in Ukrainian refugees (74%),” using data from more than a thousand respondents polled in late March.
That also includes 62% who support sending additional U.S. troops to NATO-member nations in Eastern Europe; “And a majority (56%) support sending U.S. troops to defend a NATO ally like Latvia, Lithuania, or Estonia if Russia were to invade them.”
But there’s some caution when it comes to more directly confrontational moves: “Only four in ten (41%) support a no-fly zone over Ukraine, even if it might trigger a direct US-Russia conflict,” the report’s authors write, “and just over a third (36%) favor sending U.S. troops to Ukraine to help the Ukrainian government defend itself against the Russian invasion.”
When it comes to paying more at the pump here stateside, “At least for now,” Americans surveyed say they are “tolerant of gas-price increases as part of the consequences of those sanctions.”
And an end to sanctions against Russia? That shouldn’t happen until Russia withdraws its troops, 67% of Americans say. However, most “doubt that sanctions will be enough to persuade Moscow to withdraw troops from Ukraine.” Read the full report (PDF) here.
Developing: White House and allied officials are planning a “long-term isolation” of Russia. This concerted effort involves “new policies across virtually every aspect of the West’s posture toward Moscow, from defense and finance to trade and international diplomacy,” the Washington Post reported Saturday. It could mean a revised National Security Strategy; but it’s unclear if the administration’s National Defense Strategy, which the Post reports was “sent last month in classified form to Congress,” will be altered. More here.
By the way: Get to better understand how Moscow uses “Russophobia” against its critics and opponents in this 2017 report from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. It’s aged impressively well in the nearly five years since it was written (hat tip to former CIA-er John Sipher). Here’s an excerpt we found particularly illuminating: “Coined by a 19th-century Slavophile poet, revived and popularized by a Soviet-era dissident nationalist, the term [‘Russophobia’] has since morphed into a powerful weapon in the current Kremlin's rhetorical arsenal—deployed mainly to obscure criticism of Vladimir Putin's regime by smearing, stigmatizing, and discrediting the messenger,” RFE/RL’s Brian Whitmore wrote. “More subtly, it is also used to underscore a sense of Russian exceptionalism, suggesting, in effect, that Russia not only has a distinctive culture, but one that is under constant attack.” More here.
Beginning Tuesday, NATO members will conduct annual cyber war games known as Locked Shields at the alliance’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence, based in Estonia. The Wall Street Journal has a brief bit about this year’s games, here.
- “Ukraine War Stokes Concerns in Taiwan Over Its Fragile Internet Links,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Monday;
- “Eight New Points on the Porcupine: More Ukrainian Lessons for Taiwan,” via Andrew Erickson and Gabriel Collins, writing for War on the Rocks on Monday;
- “Zelenskiy, IMF managing director discuss Ukraine's 'post-war reconstruction,’” via Reuters, reporting Sunday.
SecDef Austin welcomes his Philippine counterpart at the Pentagon this afternoon. As is often customary with Austin, there’s no press conference planned for this meeting with Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana, who is scheduled to arrive at the building around 2:30 p.m. ET.
Pakistan’s air force killed at least 45 people in cross-border strikes on eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, including separate targets in Kunar and Khost provinces.
Context: “On Thursday, seven Pakistan army soldiers were killed in North Waziristan, in the northwest area of the country, by militants operating from Afghanistan,” the New York Times reported Sunday, citing Pakistan’s foreign ministry. “Most of the people killed in the airstrikes had been displaced from [Pakistan’s] North Waziristan, according to locals.”
Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi condemned the attacks on Twitter, warning Islamabad “not to repeat such mistakes, otherwise it will have bad consequences.” Former president Hamid Karzai also released a statement condemning the attacks, calling them “a violation of international law, a violation of Afghanistan's national sovereignty and a crime against humanity.” Pakistan’s foreign ministry replied Sunday, saying in a statement, “Pakistan has repeatedly requested [the] Afghan Government in [the] last few months to secure [the] Pak-Afghan border region. Terrorists are using Afghan soil with impunity to carry out activities inside Pakistan.” More here.
Turkey’s military just launched a new offensive against Kurds in northern Iraq. Already, four Turkish troops have allegedly died in the fighting, which Ankara says also killed 19 Kurdish fighters in jet, helicopter, drone, and artillery strikes.
It’s known as “Operation Claw Lock,” and it’s reportedly occurring over northern Iraq’s Metina, Zap, and Avashin-Basyan regions, according to the Associated Press.
ICYMI: “Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, which controls the areas that were attacked,” AP writes. More here.
And lastly: In emerging tech news, Amazon and the U.S. Air Force have both placed their hopes on a new aircraft the New York Times calls “The Battery That Flies.”
Topline read: The plane doesn’t need jet fuel and produces no carbon, but right now, the power supply only lasts about an hour. After the charge nearly ran out on the flight the NYT’s Ben Rider Howe took, he wrote, “I wondered how many people would enjoy flying in an electric plane. That take off is fun. But then you do start to worry about the landing.” More, here.