Today's D Brief: First grain ship leaves Ukraine at last; More artillery for Kyiv; Putin wants a bigger navy; Pelosi in Asia; And a bit more.
Ukraine just upped its artillery game after it received a new German Multiple Launch Rocket System known as MARS II. In a tweet Monday, Kyiv’s military chief, Oleskii Reznikov called this most recent addition the “third brother in the Long Hand family,” after the U.S.-donated HIMARS and the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System, which both the U.K. and Norway have donated to Ukraine.
Ukraine also just received those four additional HIMARS from the U.S., Reznikov tweeted separately on Monday. “We have proven to be smart operators of this weapon,” said Reznikov. “The sound of the HIMARS volley has become a top hit of this summer at the front lines!” he added.
A welcome milestone: Ukraine’s first shipment of grain since the invasion started has finally departed the port city of Odesa on Monday, headed for Lebanon. The Sierra Leone-flagged ship, Razoni, is carrying an estimated 26,000 tons of corn as it heads to the Middle East at about 10 knots, with a planned arrival sometime Wednesday. But first, it must stop at Istanbul for inspection by the UN- and Turkey-brokered Joint Coordination Center, which is overseeing this new effort to get Ukraine’s grain to the world’s markets.
Next up: “Ukraine's government says 16 other grain ships with 600,000 tonnes of foodstuffs are waiting to leave ports in and around Odesa in the coming weeks,” the BBC reports.
An apparent Russian strike killed a wealthy Ukrainian grain magnate, Oleksiy Vadatursky, and his wife Raisa at their home this weekend in the southern city of Mykolaiv.
An alleged Ukrainian drone attack canceled Russia’s Navy Day celebrations at its Black Sea Fleet headquarters in annexed Crimea’s port city of Sevastopol, according to state-run TASS, reporting Sunday. At least five people were reportedly injured in the attack (six, according to the Associated Press). An official in Kyiv mocked Russian defenses after the attack, writing on Telegram, “Did the occupiers admit the helplessness of their air defense system? Or their helplessness in front of the Crimean partisans?”
Food for thought: Perhaps you, too, seem to have noticed “a gap between Russian weapons on paper versus their performance in the field,” as Russia-watcher Jack Watling of the Royal United Services Institute noted on Twitter in an explanatory thread on Sunday. He explains what he understands to be the possible sources of targeting inconsistency for Russian Mi-35 operators, as well as why Russian weapon systems need highly-trained troops in a dynamic battlefield environment like Ukraine (and this contrasts with Moscow’s current crop of contract soldiers who make up most of Putin’s invasion force). Worth the click over on Twitter, here.
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. And check out other Defense One newsletters here. On this day in and around America’s heartland, and after several months of rain during the so-called “Great Flood of 1993,” the Mississippi River finally crested at nearly 20 feet above flood stage—an incredible depth that rushed out nearly a million cubic feet of water every second. The mighty Mississippi wouldn’t drop below flood stage until October 7, after 100,000 homes had been destroyed, nearly three dozen people died, 15 million acres of farmland had been lost, and cities and towns began tending to damages that cost an estimated $31 billion (in Aug. 2022 dollars).
Developing: Russia appears to be sending forces to Ukraine’s southern front, around Zaporizhzhia, after its officers identified that “as a vulnerable area in need of reinforcement,” the British military said Monday. In a wider analysis, “Russia is probably adjusting the operational design of its Donbas offensive after failing to make a decisive operational breakthrough under the plan it had been following since April,” the Brits say. Some Russian elements have spent the last four days attacking around the northeastern Donetsk city of Bakhmut, but they’ve “only manag[ed] to make slow progress” so far, according to the Brits.
One perspective from inside Russia: “The borders of Russia never end!” reads a sign Steve Rosenberg of the BBC noticed recently just outside a military base in the city of Pskov, in Western Russia, which is about a dozen miles east of Estonia. Rosenberg calls Pskov “a medieval fortress town,” and this town is particularly important right now, he argues, because “This is how the Kremlin portrays modern Russia: as a besieged fortress threatened by the West.”
- Rosenberg composed a separate Twitter thread to explore some of the apparent support for Putin’s Ukraine invasion that he witnessed over the past five months spent driving around Russia. Read that, here.
A bomb exploded inside a prison in the occupied eastern city of Olenivka on Friday, killing 53 Ukrainian prisoners. “Ukraine has blamed Russia for the explosion, saying it was done to cover up the torture and execution of prisoners,” AP reports. Russian officials, on the other hand, blame Ukrainian artillery.
Vladimir Putin said the U.S. is Russia’s “primary threat” as he signed a new naval doctrine over the weekend, insisting Russia will soon become a “great maritime power” with global ambitions, according to Reuters reporting Sunday from St. Petersburg. (Reminder: Russia has just one aircraft carrier, and it’s in for repairs presently—and isn’t expected to return until 2024.) Read more, here.
Some cyber news we missed last week: U.S. federal cybersecurity officials are teaming up with Ukrainians to raise Kyiv’s capabilities and defenses, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency announced Wednesday. “Cyber threats cross borders and oceans,” said CISA Director Jen Easterly in a statement. “And so we look forward to building on our existing relationship with [Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection] to share information and collectively build global resilience against cyber threats.” A bit more, here.
- “War With Russia Enters New Phase as Ukraine Readies Southern Counterblow,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Sunday on a promised counter-offensive that has been talked about for several weeks now;
- “Using Nuclear Reactors for Cover, Russians Lob Rockets at Ukrainians,” via the New York Times, reporting Monday from the southern port city of Nikopol;
- “Why I Won’t Vote to Add Sweden and Finland to NATO,” via insurrection-booster and Republican Sen. from Missouri, Josh Hawley, writing Monday in The National Interest;
- And “‘I hate them’: Dmitry Medvedev’s journey from liberal to anti-western hawk,” via Shaun Walker, reporting for the Guardian on Monday.
Lastly: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in Singapore today, part of an Asia tour that will include Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan. Pelosi is also expected to visit Taiwan, though President Joe Biden has said that would be a bad idea, and Reuters reports that Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said such a visit would lead to “very serious developments and consequences.” China “will never sit idly by,” Zhao said.
For what it’s worth, China-watcher Wen-Ti Sung explained last week in a Twitter thread that China’s rhetoric on this issue has been “far below the threshold of the kinds of words & phrases that China historically used for signaling impending war/brinkmanship.”