Today's D Brief: Ukraine wants weapons 'fast'; Putin longs for Peter the Great; J6 was 'an attempted coup'; China's new Taiwan war warning; And a bit more.

“Ukraine desperately needs heavy weapons, and very fast,” said Oleksei Reznikov, Ukraine’s military chief, in a Facebook post on Thursday. “We have proved that, unlike many others, we do not fear the Kremlin,” he said. “But as a country we cannot afford to be losing our best sons and daughters.”

What Reznikov wants now, 106 days into Russia’s invasion: 

  • A “significant amount of NATO-type [multiple launch rocket system] units with ammo”;
  • To replace “some existing Soviet-type” weaponry with NATO platforms and ammo; 
  • “hundreds of heavy armored vehicles”;
  • And “fighter jets, anti-aircraft, and missile defense systems to protect our skies.” 

“I cannot say that I am satisfied with the tempo and quantity of weapon supplies. Absolutely not,” Reznikov said, but added that he’s certainly thankful for all the help so far. “As I have already noted, all those who work to strengthen our defenses for the victory of Ukraine constitute a team. And our common goal is to defeat Russia, no matter how hard it may be.”

On the battlefield, “Russian forces are continuing to deploy outdated military equipment to Ukraine to replace losses,” analysts with the Institute for the Study of War write in their latest assessment. That outdated equipment includes “mines from the 1950s” being used to help thwart Ukrainian counterattacks in Kherson Oblast. Other old Soviet stuff in use now includes T-62 tanks and 152mm howitzers pulled out of storage in Siberia. 

The artillery battle in the east remains hot around Severodonetsk, where Russians are looking to seize the Azot industrial zone, ISW reports. There have been incremental Russian gains north of Slovyansk and east of Bakhmut, but they seem to be fixated on strengthening defensive lines along the southern lines of conflict as Moscow rotates troops into the sizable Zaporizhia Oblast, which includes the captured port city of Mariupol. More here.

Developing: Russian scouts are probing for safe places to cross the Siverskyi Donets River, in Ukraine’s east, where the Russkies got shellacked several times while attempting river crossings last month, Reuters reports Friday from Kyiv. 

Fightin’ words: Vladimir Putin now suggests he will conquer Ukraine as Peter the Great did to the declining Swedish empire 300 years ago. “Peter the Great led the Northern War for 21 years,” said Russia’s aging, autocratic leader Thursday in televised remarks to young business leaders and scientists. “It would seem that he fought with Sweden, [and] captured land,” said Putin, and exclaimed, “He didn't capture it, he returned it!” (Translations via Elena Chernenko of the Moscow-based Kommersant newspaper; video here.)

Vlad the invader continued, “When Peter the Great laid the new capital in St. Petersburg, none of the European countries recognized this territory as Russian, everyone recognized it as Sweden’s,” Putin said. “The same is true in the western direction, it concerns Narva, his first campaigns. Why did he care to do it? To return [it] and strengthen it; that's what he did... Apparently, it also is our destiny to return and strengthen.”

Putin’s foreign ministry echoed that sentiment in a tweet Thursday, which captioned the new tsar provocatively declaring, “There is no in-between, no intermediate state: either a country is sovereign, or it is a colony, no matter what the colonies are called. And a colony has no historical prospects. If a country is not able to make sovereign decisions, it's a colony.”

The British military warns a cholera outbreak could soon hit Mariupol, where “isolated cases” have been reported since May, and medical services “are likely already near collapse.” UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace also dropped by Kyiv on Friday for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy, according to a spot report from the Associated Press

Get a better grasp on the looming global food crisis in a new Reuters analysis of the “sea mines” that dot the waters along Ukraine’s main ports—including (according to Russia) Odesa, Ochakov, Chornomorsk, and Yuzhny. 

Recommended reading: 

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Welcome to this Friday 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. And check out other Defense One newsletters here. On this day in 1898, U.S. Marines seized a Cuban harbor in the Battle of Guantánamo Bay.

“Jan. 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup—a brazen attempt, as one rioter put it shortly after January 6th, to overthrow the government,” said Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol nearly 18 months ago. The committee’s first day of six prime-time televised hearings began Thursday evening. Catch day one in reruns on YouTube, here.
“Trump oversaw and coordinated a sophisticated seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power,” Thompson said in his opening remarks. “In our hearings, you will see evidence of each element of this plan,” he promised.
The committee also released a 10-minute, chronological video recounting events leading up to the attack that day, including personal accounts from rioters who said they understood the president invited them to Washington to fight expressly for him, as well as footage of those rioters attacking police. 
“You will see that Donald Trump and his advisers knew that he had in fact lost the election,” said Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, committee vice chairwoman. “But despite this, President Trump engaged in a massive effort to spread false and fraudulent information to convince huge portions of the U.S. population that fraud had stolen the election.” And not only that, Cheney said. “Aware of the rioters’ chants to ‘hang Mike Pence,’ the president responded with this sentiment: quote, ‘Maybe our supporters have the right idea,’ Mike Pence, quote, ‘deserves it.’”
And Trump wouldn’t order the National Guard to stop it; Vice President Mike Pence had to do that, according to Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley’s testimony, portions of which aired Thursday evening. Here is a video of that account, curated by vice chairwoman Cheney. 

  • “I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible,” Cheney warned, “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone but your dishonor will remain.” 

“The world is watching what we do here,” Thompson said. “The Constitution doesn’t protect just Democrats or just Republicans. It protects all of us. We the People. And this scheme was an attempt to undermine the will of the people,” the chairman said, and stressed, “The cause of our democracy remains in danger. The conspiracy to thwart the will of the people is not over.”
The next televised hearing is slated for Monday morning, when the focus is expected to concern Trump’s election lies and how they “lit the fuse that ultimately resulted in the violence of Jan. 6,” according to Thompson’s preview. 

New: Violent crime continued to rise during Trump’s last year in office, and that includes rural counties outside of the “cities” that have already registered a 30% spike in homicides since the start of the pandemic more than two years ago. These new findings come from a trio of Wall Street Journal reporters who turned their attention to “America’s smallest communities,” using new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
By the numbers: “Homicide rates in rural America rose 25% in 2020,” and that was “the largest rural increase since the agency began tracking such data in 1999,” the Journal reported Friday. 
What lies behind these rural trends? It’s hard to say, law enforcement officials told the Journal. Some blamed reduced church attendance from the pandemic, “and everyday exchanges between neighbors.” Others pointed to mental health pressures and financial stresses during the same period. Said one sheriff, “It’s not like you got gang members dealing drugs, and you can get boots on the ground, and undercover buys and prosecutions.” And that makes this present rise in rural homicides seem to be “really tough to stop.”
Pleaded one prosecutor from Arkansas: “I don’t know what to say, besides y’all stop killing each other.” Read more, here

Helicopter crash in the California desert. One person was injured Thursday when a Navy helicopter carrying four crew members crashed near El Centro, California, the Navy said in a statement last night. The MH-60S Seahawk was flying routine training when it went down.
The mishap comes one day after a Marine MV-22 Osprey crashed in the same area, killing all five Marines aboard. The names of the deceased have not yet been released. 

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin spoke to his Chinese counterpart Friday in Singapore at the annual conference of global defense officials known as the Shangri-La Dialogue. The two military leaders spoke about Russia’s Ukraine invasion, and the regional nuclear threat posed by North Korea. Austin also “reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Strait, opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo, and called on the PRC to refrain from further destabilizing actions toward Taiwan,” according to the Defense Department’s readout.
Afterward, China’s Defense Ministry got all worked up and promised it “will definitely not hesitate to start a war, no matter the cost” should anyone “dare to split Taiwan from China.” That’s according to a blistering statement from Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian, via Agence France-Presse

Lastly: Get ready for Defense One’s 7th annual Tech Summit, which begins Monday at 1 p.m. ET. (Full agenda here.) Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks will kick things off with a keynote address, to be followed by a 1:55 p.m. panel about the “Future of Open Source Intelligence,” which happens to be moderated by one of your D-Briefers. Register ahead to access the weeklong virtual summit.

Be safe wherever you are this weekend. And we’ll see you again on Monday!