Today's D Brief: Russia says Ukraine behind Moscow car-bombing; MRAPs, TOWs, Javelins, among $775M in new US arms to Kyiv; RoK-US drills begin; And a bit more.
Russia insists Ukrainian forces are behind the weekend death of a 29-year-old nationalist TV personality, Daria Dugina, who perished Saturday when her Toyota Land Cruiser exploded mysteriously while traveling in an affluent suburb of Moscow. According to Russia’s state-run TASS, “a citizen of Ukraine identified as Natalia Vovk” was allegedly behind the apparent attack, and Russia’s domestic spy service, the FSB, says she fled to Estonia afterward.
The FSB says a “remote-controlled” bomb detonated on Dugina’s Land Cruiser, and shortly afterward the accused and her daughter crossed the border into Estonia. She allegedly drove a Mini Cooper with a license plate from “the Donetsk People's Republic—E982XH,” before changing to Kazakh plates while in Moscow, and then to a Ukrainian license plate on the way out of Russia, TASS says.
Dugina was the daughter of a prominent Russian nationalist named Alexander Dugin, and some suspect the 60-year-old Dugin was the intended target of the apparent bombing—since he reportedly changed cars at the “last minute” ahead of the bombing Saturday, according to Russian newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta. The BBC reports Dugin is thought to be close to Russia’s autocratic leader, Vladimir Putin; but exactly how close is unclear—despite breathless headlines and tweets claiming he is “Putin’s brain” and “author of Putin’s Ukraine strategy,” and more.
A second opinion: “Dugin was never close to Putin,” writes Alexander Graef of the Hamburg-based Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy. “He has never been an advisor. He literally knows people, who know people, who have heard about others, who have met Putin. He is an extravagant ideologue, whose mysticism and shrill style have made him an ideal figure to play the media.” Other Russia-watchers, like historian Sergey Radchenko, point their finger at the FSB; but no one truly knows for certain just yet.
What is for sure: Dugin told the BBC in 2014 that war with Ukraine “is inevitable,” and said Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula should be annexed; both of those things happened later that year.
For the record, Ukrainian officials deny any involvement in the apparent bombing. “Ukraine definitely has nothing to do with this, because we are not a criminal state, which the Russian Federation is,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, who is an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy.
Meanwhile in Kyiv: War trophies on display. Ukrainian officials have placed burnt out Russian tanks and infantry carriers on the streets of the capital city ahead of Wednesday’s Independence Day, which is also the six-month mark of Putin’s botched invasion of Ukraine, the Associated Press reported in a 90-second video this weekend that you can see here.
Coverage continues below…
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Welcome to this Monday 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 1934, Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., was born in Trenton, N.J. His father, Herbert Sr., was a veteran of the First World War (and later the Second) and his mother, Ruth, was a distant relative of Thomas Jefferson. At the age of 12, in 1946, Junior moved with his dad to Tehran, where he learned horseback riding and hunting. About 45 years later, he would famously command all of U.S. forces during the Gulf War following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. He’d later pass away in Tampa two days after Christmas in 2012, at the age of 78.
Developing: The European Union may soon authorize a “major training operation” for Ukrainian troops in neighboring countries, but only if it’s approved after a debate, according to foreign policy chief Josep Borrell (via Agence France-Presse).
ICYMI: The Pentagon announced another $775 million in U.S. weapons to Ukraine on Friday. This latest batch included more rounds for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and howitzer artillery; more High-speed Anti-radiation (aka, “HARM”) missiles often used to target Russian radars; 1,500 Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (aka, “TOW”) missiles; 1,000 more Javelin anti-tank systems; 2,000 anti-armor rounds; as well as optics, night-vision equipment, and laser rangefinders.
A large collection of vehicles are also on the way, including 40 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles with mine rollers; 50 humvees; 15 ScanEagle drones to help with targeting and surveillance; and some mine-clearing equipment.
The totally new stuff here (that is, new to Ukrainian forces) includes those MRAPs, the ScanEagles, the TOW missiles, and about 2,000 anti-armor rounds for use with Carl Gustaf recoilless rifles.
To date, “the United States has committed approximately $10.6 billion in security assistance since the beginning of the Biden administration,” a Pentagon official told reporters Friday. And that total rises to more than $12.6 billion in security assistance since Russia first invaded Ukraine back in 2014.
After six months of war with what had been seen as the world’s second most powerful military, Ukraine hasn’t yet been able to retake a significant amount of occupied territory yet; “but we do see a significant weakening of Russian positions in a variety of locations,” a Pentagon official said Friday. That “hollowing out of the Russian forces” has “implications for their longer-term sustainability.”
And in case you were wondering, this latest batch is coming from the Congressionally-authorized Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, “so it is not a drawdown from U.S. stocks, it is a procurement from industry,” the defense official said.
- “Europe’s Natural-Gas Crunch Sparks Global Battle for Tankers,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Monday;
- “Turkey doubles Russian oil imports, filling EU void,” via Reuters, reporting Monday from Moscow;
- “Iraq Is Facing Difficulties Sustaining Its Russian Military Helicopters,” Forbes reported Friday;
- “Russia’s ‘most hidden crime’ in Ukraine war: Rape of women, girls, men and boys,” via the Los Angeles Times, reporting Sunday from Makariv;
- “People are paying to have personal messages painted on Ukrainian artillery shells,” via the New York Times, reporting Monday;
- “A Supplier of Rare Earth Metals Turns to Greenland in Bid to Cut Reliance on Russia,” also via the Times, reporting Monday as well;
The U.S. and South Korea just kicked off their biggest joint military drills “in years,” the Associated Press reports from Seoul. “The Ulchi Freedom Shield exercises will continue through Sept. 1 in South Korea and include field exercises involving aircraft, warships, tanks and potentially tens of thousands of troops,” AP writes.
Simulated drone attacks on ports and infrastructure are also planned, reflecting “new developments in warfare shown during Russia’s war on Ukraine,” according to AP. Seoul’s Yonhap news agency goes a bit further, reporting that the exercises are “based on an all-out war concept,” and involve “three key elements—the computer-simulation command post exercise, field training, and Ulchi civil defense drills.”
Heads up: North Korea may try to detonate a nuclear weapon sometime before November, South Korea’s former spy chief said on a radio program Monday. Why November? Because of America’s midterm elections. “They are going to do it in order to demonstrate a threat that its missile can fly to the U.S. carrying a miniaturized and lighter warhead, and to deal a blow to the Joe Biden administration ahead of the midterm elections,” said Park Jie-won, who stepped down from his role directing the National Intelligence Service in early May.
You may recall North Korea-watchers were expecting Pyongyang’s seventh nuclear test back in May or June, but that never came (see NPR, and Ankit Panda, among others). And so far this year, North Korea has tested 31 ballistic missiles and at least four cruise missiles, Panda noted last week on Twitter.
And lastly: The Danube River in Germany is dropping to levels so low that old World War II warships are resurfacing, Deutsche Welle reported this weekend in a 60-second video produced with the help of drone cameras.
Back stateside, dozens of families on California’s Fort Hunter Liggett have been without drinking water since Aug. 11, Army Times reported Friday. “Within hours of the water shutoff, drinking water trailers, known as ‘water buffalo,’ from Camp Roberts, a 40-minute drive away, and portable toilets arrived on post.” Story, here.