Today's D Brief: Russia attacks Ukrainian port cities; Kyiv advisor teases counteroffensive plans; Opportunism in Ankara; New US strike in Somalia; And a bit more.

Russian missiles hit two Ukrainian port cities on Wednesday, about 24 hours after an ammunition depot and another Russian military airfield were apparently attacked in occupied Ukrainian Crimea. The strikes allegedly hit a recreation center and several other buildings in Odesa, and the Petro Mohyla Black Sea National University in Mykolayiv (see here and here, respectively). 

By the way, more than 40% of Ukraine’s education facilities cannot open in September because of Russia’s invasion and the damage it’s brought, according to the Kyiv Independent

Other Russian strikes have hit many other cities and towns overnight, including two districts in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, as well as locations in the Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy oblasts, and in Ukraine’s Zhytomyr region, which was hit with missiles launched by Russian Su-34 aircraft flying from Belarus, according to the latest battlefield update from Kyiv’s military. 

Even before those explosions in occupied Crimea, a “record 38,000 cars crossed the Crimea bridge” and headed out of the peninsula on Monday. There were also “reports of huge queues at Simferopol train station” in Crimea on Tuesday, where “People [are] clearly expecting more instability,” according to the Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Luxmoore. Indeed, the Brits call occupied Crimea a “rear base for [Russia’s] occupation.”

At least one Ukrainian official is suggesting the Crimean bridge could be destroyed soon because, as one key presidential advisor in Kyiv, Mykhailo Podolyak, tweeted Wednesday, “this bridge is an illegal object, permission for the construction of which was not given by Ukraine. It harms the peninsula’s ecology and therefore must be dismantled. Not important how—voluntary or not.”

“Our strategy is to destroy the logistics, the supply lines and the ammunition depots and other objects of military infrastructure,” Podolyak told The Guardian on Tuesday. “It’s creating a chaos within their own forces,” he added. 

On the bright side, five more ships of grain are expected to depart Ukraine’s Chornomorsk port city soon, Reuters reports from Kyiv, which would add to the 24 ships that have left “Ukrainian ports so far during the 17 days of the grain corridor operation” brokered by the United Nations, Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey. 

New: The U.S. is giving more than $68 million to help the UN “purchase, move, and store up to 150,000 metric tons of Ukrainian wheat to help respond to the global food crisis,” the U.S. Agency for International Development announced Tuesday. “This includes the 23,000 metric tons of wheat that will go to support the humanitarian response in the Horn of Africa, where a historic drought is pushing millions of people to the brink of starvation,” Administrator Samantha Power said in a statement. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Turkey has stepped in to scoop up Russian business while Ankara’s NATO allies decidedly do not take the same path, according to a new analysis from the Financial Times. Topline read: “Turkey’s exports to Russia grew 46% by value over the past three months compared with the same period last year as Ankara allowed its companies to step into the gap created by an exodus of western businesses.”

Relatedly, Russian profits still seem to be soaring, according to Reuters, whose Mark Travelyn reports, “Higher oil export volumes and rising gas prices will enable Russia to earn $338 billion this year and $256 billion next year from energy exports, according to an economy ministry forecast…compared with $244 billion last year.”

Additional reading: 

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Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson and 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 1945, English writer Eric Arthur Blair—better known by his pen name, George Orwell—first published the anti-Stalinist satire, “Animal Farm,” in London. American publishers were not interested in the novel until a year later, when the Cold War had taken root and America’s Second World War alliance with the Soviets was firmly a relic of the past. 

North Korea fired two cruise missiles from the country’s west coast early Wednesday morning, according to South Korea, though most details of the launch are still unknown, according to Reuters. The launches come on the heels of the U.S. Navy’s successful test of the Aegis Combat System, which can potentially shoot down the type of ballistic missiles that North Korea has tested more than a dozen times this year.
The U.S. Navy’s recent successful test of the Standard Missile 3 Block IA from an Aegis-equipped destroyer happened during a Hawaii-based exercise called Pacific Dragon, Stars and Stripes reported Tuesday.
Also: South Korea does not plan to pursue its own nuclear deterrent, the country’s president said Wednesday, before the North Korean launches were reported. Yoon Suk Yeol also said he doesn’t want a “political change that’s brought by force” in North Korea, the Associated Press reported, but does want more diplomacy and a “meaningful dialogue” about his proposal to give the nation significant economic assistance if it gets rid of its nuclear weapons program. More details, here.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and South Korean militaries are gearing up for their largest combined military drills in years. You may recall that in 2018, then-President Trump announced that the U.S. would end all military exercises with South Korea in a concession to North Korea; COVID-19 concerns kept the previously annual drills from returning to full strength sooner. The exercise, dubbed Ulchi Freedom Shield, starts Aug. 22 and will include “aircraft, warships, tanks, and potentially tens of thousands of troops,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday. 

For the third time in a month, U.S. forces carried out an airstrike against alleged al-Shabaab militants in Somalia, officials from U.S. Africa Command announced Wednesday. This one happened on Sunday about 200 miles north of Mogadishu, near a town called Teedaan. The alleged fighters “were actively attacking Somali National Army forces in a remote location” near Teedaan, AFRICOM said.
Thirteen militants are believed to have been killed in the strike—just one strike Sunday, unlike the last such incident a week ago, which involved three U.S. strikes that AFRICOM said killed four militants. And as with nearly all AFRICOM airstrikes, no civilians are alleged to have been killed this week.
FWIW: Locals told Voice of America on Monday that 14 fighters were killed in the Sunday airstrike. Read more from VOA’s original reporting, here

Lastly: A three-day “geomagnetic storm” is expected to begin today, and then gain a bit more strength on Thursday. You’re reading about it because it “could potentially disrupt communications, the electric power grid, navigation, radio and satellite operations,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced in an alert this week.
What’s going on: “Multiple coronal mass ejections that have departed the Sun since 14 August” are already hurling “at or near” Earth, with most expected to miss our sublime planet as they careen just south of the blue marble. And in case you’re wondering, CMEs are slightly different from solar flares, which travel much faster, as explains. “However, at least four [CMEs] have potential Earth-directed components,” NOAA said. But don’t worry excessively, because “Impacts to our technology from a G3 storm [that’s a CME rating] are usually minimal,” the agency said.
Where to look out: “The aurora might be seen over portions of Pennsylvania, Iowa, to northern Oregon,” according to NOAA. Read more here