Today's D Brief: Russia attacks coastal Ukraine; Moscow quits ISS; EU gas rationing to begin; Russian prisoners sent to fight for Wagner?; And a bit more.
Russian jets hit Ukraine’s key port city of Odesa with cruise missiles again on Tuesday. The strikes also included attacks on other coastal villages and even more port facilities (in Mykolaiv, e.g.) just days after the UN and Turkey brokered a deal to allow Ukrainian grain to ship out of port cities in the Black Sea over the weekend. Reuters and the Associated Press have a bit more on those recent attacks here and here, respectively.
Russia’s military lied again about what it’s targeting with its missiles in Ukraine, the British military says. Just hours after that deal on Friday, Russian missiles struck actual port facilities in the port city of Odesa. According to Russia’s defense ministry, their cruise missiles hit a Ukrainian warship and a missile stockpile; but that’s a bunch of rubbish, the Brits said on Tuesday because, “There is no indication that such targets were at the location the missiles hit.”
What is more likely: “Russia almost certainly perceives anti-ship missiles as a key threat, which is limiting the effectiveness of their Black Sea Fleet,” said the U.K. Defense Ministry in its latest update Tuesday morning. This alleged handicap of the Kremlin’s Black Sea Fleet “has significantly undermined the overall invasion plan, as Russia cannot realistically attempt an amphibious assault to seize Odesa,” according to the Brits.
In the days ahead, outsiders should expect Russia to put much more effort into destroying Ukraine’s anti-ship capability, the British say—and indeed this has already been observed, as noted above. And this Russian effort will likely be a messy, destructive, and violent one since “Russia’s targeting processes are highly likely routinely undermined by dated intelligence, poor planning, and a top-down approach to operations,” the British military says.
ABC News visited the site of one of the recent cruise missile attacks in Odesa on Tuesday morning. “This was someone’s holiday home,” writes Patrick Reevell, reporting on location. “A whole street of them blasted apart. An anti-ship missile landed in a garden. Can see the crater in this video.”
(Still) Developing: Russia has expanded its detention of Ukrainians in “filtration centers” across eastern Ukraine and western Russia, the New York Times reported Monday from a recently declassified U.S. intelligence assessment. The U.S. believes there are at least 18 of these centers, which the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe warned about in their own report (PDF) just a few weeks ago.
For the record, “The Russian Ministry of Defense has framed the deportation of millions of Ukrainians as part of a humanitarian relief effort,” the Times reminds us, and notes that, “According to figures released this week by the ministry, 2,795,965 Ukrainians have been “evacuated” to Russia, including 444,018 children.” More here.
New: Russia is allegedly sending prisoners to join its invading forces in Ukraine, according to investigative journalists from I-Stories (“Important Stories”), reporting last week (and flagged Tuesday by Mathew Luxmoore of the Wall Street Journal). The prisoners include at least 300 from one facility alone, and they’ve been sent to fight alongside the ragtag Wagner mercenaries, according to I-Stories, citing human rights researchers from an organization called Russia Behind Bars. Full story, here.
Coverage continues below the fold…
From Defense One
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Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad and Marcus Weisgerber. 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 1936, and just 10 days after the Spanish Civil War began, the Italian Fascists and the German Nazis formally joined the side of Spanish general Francisco Franco’s coup and insurrection. Franco’s nationalists would eventually win the war, and he was declared Spain’s dictator in 1939, a position he’d keep for almost four decades—until shortly before his death at the age of 82, in November 1975.
EU officials approved that draft law to cut natural gas use by 15% from August through March. European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the move “a decisive step to face down the threat of a full gas disruption by [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin.”
“Putin's energy blackmail” has brought the EU together, Von der Leyen said in a statement. “By acting together to reduce the demand for gas, taking into account all the relevant national specificities, the EU has secured the strong foundations for the indispensable solidarity between member states in the face of Putin's energy blackmail. The announcement by Gazprom that it is further cutting gas deliveries to Europe through Nord Stream 1 [by a fifth of its capacity, according to Reuters], for no justifiable technical reason, further illustrates the unreliable nature of Russia as an energy supplier.”
“Thanks to today's decision, we are now ready to address our energy security at European scale, as a Union,” she added.
German officials even chimed in with a sort of apology: “Germany made a strategic error in the past with its great dependency on Russian gas and faith that it would always flow constantly and cheaply,” Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Tuesday, and added, “But it is not just a German problem.” AP has more, here.
New: Russia says it’s quitting the International Space Station after 2024. That’s according to Moscow’s new space chief, Yuri Borisov, speaking to state-run TASS on Tuesday. The New York Times reports this move throws the future of the space station into uncertainty. “The outpost in orbit consists of two sections, one led by NASA, the other by Russia,” the Times reports. “Much of the power on the Russian side comes from NASA’s solar panels, while the Russians provide propulsion to periodically raise the orbit.” A bit more, here; or from AP, here.
This week in ideas: With his Ukraine invasion, Putin is appealing to Russians’ sense of humiliation in a familiar cycle of humiliation and aggression, argues Peter Pomertansev Tuesday in the op-ed pages of the NYTs. That cycle “defines the experience of life in Russia, and now Ukraine is the stage.”
- “How heavy are Russian casualties in Ukraine?” asked Shashank Joshi of The Economist on Sunday;
- “IMF Again Cuts Global Growth Forecast Amid Inflation, War in Ukraine,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Tuesday, noting that the outcomes could get worse thanks to Russia’s invasion, inflation, and China’s new economic outlook, which was just revised downward yet again to 3.3% (it was 8.1% last year); read the full report via the IMF, here;
- And the “First Hurdle for Ukraine Grain Deal Is Clearing Stuck Ships,” via Bloomberg, reporting Tuesday.
Not just NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware: The personal phone belonging to a Greek member of Europe’s parliament was found to have contained spyware called Predator from a group known as Cytrox, according to Greek media, reporting Tuesday. These latest known allegations concern the phone of Nikos Androulakis, who took advantage of a new spyware screening system for European parliamentarians in late June, and learned someone had attempted to corrupt his personal phone with spyware on Sept. 21, 2021. The effort used a simple phishing link with an accompanying text message that read, “Let's look at the matter a little more seriously, friend, we have to win.”
How Predator’s spyware works: It allows an outsider access to apparently every aspect of a cellular phone, including password and photo monitoring and extraction, browsing history, as well as the ability to turn the phone into a listening station, picking up conversations occurring in the vicinity of the device.
Fortunately, Androulakis “never clicked on the link,” which “appears to have spared him the worst of it,” according to the Greek report. Read on (via Google Translate) here.
- “Pegasus used by at least 5 EU countries, NSO Group tells lawmakers,” via Politico, reporting on June 21;
- “Defense Firm [L3 Harris] Said U.S. Spies Backed Its Bid for Pegasus Spyware Maker,” via the New York Times, reporting July 10; that deal would require approval from both Israel and the U.S., according to the Guardian, reporting in mid-June;
- “Here's Why the World's Most Infamous Spyware Maker Is Broke,” via Gizmodo, reporting June 1.
Lastly: A giant wildfire burning across Slovenia is setting off old buried bombs from World War I, Task & Purpose reported Friday. One of the bombs detonated very close to firefighters on Friday, though luckily it didn’t injure anyone. So many have exploded already that officials stopped counting and are only marking those that go off near roads, Vice News reported separately on Monday.
Twelve WWI battles were fought on the site, and the explosions are making it difficult for the firefighters to battle the nearly 5,000-acre blaze. They’re being forced to stay around the edges of the fire while using aircraft to target the middle, according to the Slovenian defense minister.