Today's D Brief: New sanctions on Russia as Putin celebrates WWII; 'Muted' parade on Red Square; New N.Korea launch; And a bit more.
The G7 marked nearly eight decades since the defeat of the Nazis by imposing a new round of sanctions against Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin, for his recent invasion of democratic Ukraine. “We mourn the millions of victims and offer our respect,” the leaders said in a statement this weekend, “especially to all those who paid the ultimate price to defeat the National Socialist regime, including the western Allies and the Soviet Union.”
Putin’s “actions bring shame on Russia and the historic sacrifices of its people,” the Group of Seven leaders said Sunday, as Russian troops rehearsed in Moscow and about two dozen other cities nationwide. The Kremlin even reportedly practiced in and over Red Square with about 80 aircraft and helicopters that, for some reason or other, would not actually make an appearance during Monday’s official parade. (A bit more on that below.)
But today in Moscow, Putin surprised some observers by not making any major announcements. Some expected him to escalate the war, since Russian forces have retreated from around Kyiv and they’ve been repulsed from Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, in the east. But Putin didn’t call for a nationwide mobilization on Monday. Instead, just as he has said repeatedly for several months, he complained to Muscovites that Russia was “forced” to strike preemptively in Ukraine, and that it had no choice.
“The danger was growing day by day,” Putin said, “so Russia gave a pre-emptive response to the aggression. It was a forced, timely and only correct decision, a decision made by the sovereign, strong, and independent country.” The Russian leader appeared in Red Square holding a portrait of his father, who was a Soviet soldier, and said Russian forces in eastern Ukraine today are “defending the motherland.”
Putin’s usual U.S.-bashing also made an appearance in his speech Monday. “The United States of America, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, started talking about its exclusivity, thereby humiliating not only the whole world, but also its satellites, who have to pretend that they do not notice anything and meekly swallow it all,” he said. “But we are a different country. Russia has a different character.”
- By the way, hackers reportedly breached some feeds on Russian smart TVs across the country during Putin’s speech. The BBC illustrates, here; Reuters has more, here.
Bottom line: Putin’s speech Monday was nothing new at all. Indeed, it was “essentially about how the Western world is all against” Russia, said Mark Galeotti of the Royal United Services Institute, based in the UK. After all, he said, Victory Day is about victory; and the last thing you want to do on just such a day is admit defeat by calling for a general mobilization, Galeotti said in a Monday interview with the Times.
“Muted” is how CNN described the Victory Day parade in Moscow on Monday. Putin gave “no hint of next steps” in his speech, according to the BBC. And the New York Times called Putin’s speech “conspicuous for what it did not include.” The Washington Post put together a photo slideshow of today’s Moscow parade, here.
Aircraft flyovers were also canceled today in several locations across Russia, ostensibly because of poor weather, according to the Kremlin. “Yet the weather in Moscow looked clear and no further specifics were given, raising questions about what actually prevented the aerial component of Russia’s annual show of strength,” the Times reported separately Monday.
Britain’s military chief accused Putin of “repeating the errors of last century’s totalitarian regimes,” according to Ben Wallace’s remarks to lawmakers Monday. “Through their invasion of Ukraine, Putin, his inner circle and generals are now mirroring the fascism and tyranny of 77 years ago,” he said. “They are showing the same disregard for human life, national sovereignty, and the rules-based international system. The very system, not least the United Nations Charter itself, that we conceived together and for which we fought and were victorious together in the hope of saving future generations from the scourge of war. repeating the errors of last century’s totalitarian regimes.”
“The behavior of the Russian General staff has shown that their own self-preservation comes first,” Wallace said. “War crimes, targeting civilians, and the casualty rates in their own Battalion Tactical Groups are all secondary concerns. The truth is that Russia’s General Staff are failing and they know it.” Read the rest, here.
At least 60 people were killed Saturday when a Russian missile struck a school in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region, about seven miles from the alleged front lines, according to CNN. “The cycle of death, destruction, dislocation & disruption must stop,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted after the news broke.
Coverage continues below the fold…
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New G7 sanctions include a promise to phase out or ban Russian oil imports “in a timely and orderly fashion, and in ways that provide time for the world to secure alternative supplies.” There are also new measures clamping down on Russian financial institutions and new export controls on “access to industrial engines, motors, and bulldozers,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
On Friday, POTUS46 authorized another $150 million in military gear for Ukraine, including three AN/TPQ-36 counter-artillery radars; 25,000 artillery rounds; jammers, and more. This latest drawdown, authorized Friday, pushes the total U.S. contributions to about $3.8 billion since the invasion began in late February.
The White House has now nearly exhausted authorized funding for Ukraine, President Joe Biden said in a statement Friday, pressing lawmakers to pass his recent $33 billion supplemental funding package, including more than $20 billion in military aid to Ukraine.
“For Ukraine to succeed in this next phase of war,” Biden said, “its international partners, including the U.S., must continue to demonstrate our unity and our resolve to keep the weapons and ammunition flowing to Ukraine, without interruption.” That’s why lawmakers should pass that legislation “quickly…to strengthen Ukraine on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.”
FLOTUS made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Sunday, and met with the Ukrainian First Lady just across the border from Slovakia. She was in the country for about two hours. “I thought it was important to show the Ukrainian people that this war has to stop and this war has been brutal and that the people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine,” Jill Biden said, according to a pool report Sunday.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Ukraine over the weekend, too. And his visit included a stopover in the town of Irpin, which is one of several locations where Russian forces appear to have commited war crimes early in their invasion.
Trudeau just promised $50 million in military gear to Ukraine, including camera equipment for drones, “as well as satellite imagery, ammunition,” and small arms, Canada’s Globe and Mail reported Sunday. Ottawa also added sanctions on 40 Russian individuals and organizations.
“[Putin] made some very profound miscalculations,” Trudeau said in Ukraine. “First of all, he miscalculated deeply the courage, the resolve, the strength of the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian leader. Secondly, he vastly underestimated the determination and the ability of countries around the world to stand against his actions and stand in support of our Ukrainian friends.” Read more, here.
- “The Woman Steering Russia’s War Economy,” via the New York Times, reporting Monday in a profile of Elvira Nabiullina;
- “From Tycoons to Pop Singers, Ukrainians of All Walks Come Together on the Front Lines,” via the Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov, reporting Monday north of Kharkiv;
- “Russian ambassador to Poland hit with red paint,” via the Associated Press, reporting Monday from Warsaw;
- And “‘We will win’, defiant Zelenskiy tells Russia on World War Two anniversary,” via Reuters, reporting Monday from Kyiv.
North Korea launched another apparent missile over the weekend, which would be Pyongyang’s 15th weapons test this calendar year. This one was allegedly fired from a submarine, Reuters reported Saturday from Seoul. The short-range missile was launched just three days before the scheduled inauguration of South Korea’s new president Tuesday; Yoon Suk-yeol plans to meet with President Biden in Seoul later this month.
The departing president, Moon Jae-in, said today he hopes peace efforts on the peninsula will continue, the Associated Press reported. Moon’s successor has criticized his denuclearization efforts and said he will take a stronger stance on North Korea.
“Peace is the condition for our survival and prosperity,” Moon said in a televised farewell address. “I heartily hope that efforts to resume dialogue between South and North Korea and establish denuclearization and peace would continue.”
And lastly: This afternoon in Washington, National Guard Bureau Chief Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson is scheduled to discuss the Guard’s “State Partnership Program” at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, at 2 p.m. ET. Details and registration (required to view a livestream), here.