The D Brief: Z threatens Russian troops; Austin on Afghanistan; Deadly riot in Iraq; Fix the interpreter-visa program; And a bit more...

Run for your lives. That’s the message Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sent to Russian troops late Monday night, after the apparent start of the long-awaited counteroffensive in Ukraine’s south. 

“If they want to survive, it’s time for the Russian military to run away. Go home. Ukraine is taking back its own (land),” Zelenskyy said, according to Reuters, which has video of part of his speech, here

The Russian government has a different view of the situation, of course: They say they’ve repelled Ukrainian attacks and will continue to push forward with their invasion. “All our goals will be reached,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, Reuters reported.  

Fact-check: Ukraine has “increased the weight of artillery fires” across southern Ukraine and continues to disrupt Russian supply lines with long-range strikes, the British Defence Ministry noted in an intelligence update posted Tuesday on Twitter. While it’s not possible to determine “the extent of Ukrainian advances,” the ministry said, Russia has been reorganizing its forces since the beginning of the month, and most Russian units around Kherson are “likely under-manned.”

Tricky, tricky, tricky. Ukraine has been using decoy artillery batteries to trick Russia into using its long-range cruise missiles, the Washington Post reports. The wooden dummies—built to look like advanced weapons systems sent by the U.S.—have drawn “at least 10 Kalibr cruise missiles,” according to a Ukrainian official. The replicas may also explain why, according to one U.S. diplomat, Russia has “claimed to have hit more HIMARS than we have even sent.” 

The White House is calling for a demilitarized zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. “A nuclear power plant is not the appropriate location for combat operations,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday, adding that the U.S. also believes the power outage last week shows why “a controlled shutdown” of the plant’s nuclear reactors is necessary immediately. You’ll recall that a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency is on its way to inspect that plant now.  

Meanwhile, Iran has given its first shipment of drones to Russia to use in its ongoing invasion, WaPo reports, noting that the drones have not performed as well in tests as Russia had hoped. More details, here

Gas as a weapon? France is accusing Russia of using its supply of energy as a “weapon of war,” as European countries scramble to find alternatives to Russian gas and deal with spiking energy costs, Reuters reports.

Getting the gang back together. SecDef Lloyd Austin will host defense leaders next week at Ramstein Air Base in Germany for a meeting of the “Ukraine Defense Contact Group,” the fourth such meeting since Russia’s invasion began, Stars and Stripes reported Monday.  

Also meeting soon: European Union foreign ministers, to discuss whether Russians should be allowed to travel throughout the EU as tourists, Reuters reports.

From Defense One

Fix and Expand the Interpreter Visa Program // Doug Livermore: The 2006 Special Immigrant Visa program, which helps Iraqi and Afghan interpreters and their families, desperately needs an overhaul and expansion to cover U.S. helpers elsewhere.

Sell F-16s to Argentina // Santiago Previde: A 40-year-old war should not give China an arms-supply toehold in Latin America.

Almost No One Has Been Hired Through DHS' Much-Hyped Cyber Talent Program // Natalie Alms: With a month left in the fiscal year, program is 146 new hires short of its 150-person goal.

US, Israel Team Up to Fight Ransomware // Alexandra Kelley: The Treasury Department and Ministry of Finance extend a year-old, tech-centric cybersecurity pact.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Jennifer Hlad and Bradley Peniston. 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 1780, Gen. Benedict Arnold promised the British Army that he would surrender the fort at West Point, New York.

One year ago, the U.S. ended its two-decade war in Afghanistan. Austin marked the occasion with a message to the force

Austin noted the sacrifices: “Many service members still bear the wounds of war, to body and to soul, and 2,461 brave heroes never made it home.”

The work: “The United States went to Afghanistan in 2001 to wage a necessary war of self-defense...Since 2001, no enemy has been able to launch such an attack on our homeland...Still, we know this work is not done. We must keep a relentless focus on counterterrorism—and we are.”

And the debate: “As our country looks back on two decades of combat in Afghanistan, I understand that many people have hard questions about the costs of the war and what their sacrifices meant. These are important discussions, and I hope we will keep having them with thoughtfulness and respect.” Read the message, here

12 die as Iraqi government opens fire on rioters. After the powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr tweeted that he will leave politics, hundreds of his supporters poured into the Baghdad streets, “where they breached concrete barriers guarding the so-called Green Zone, the site of Parliament, Iraqi government offices and diplomatic missions, including the U.S. Embassy,” the New York Times reported. Government security forces opened fire, killing 12 and injuring more than 100. Read on, here.

Commission: strip traitors’ names from academy streets, buildings. The federal Naming Commission dropped Part II of its three-part report to Congress on Monday, identifying things on service academies that should be changed to allow cadets and midshipmen to serve “in an environment and setting that honors the greatest examples, traditions, and leaders of our past.”

Examples: Buchanan House, the residence of the Naval Academy superintendent, which bears the name of a predecessor who became the Confederacy’s only full admiral; and West Point’s Lee Barracks, renamed in 1970 after a wave of actions that sought to make the Confederate general a revered figure at the academy.

Expect Part III within a month. “It’s expected to include recommendations for two Navy ships, the cruiser Chancellorsville―named for a Confederate battle victory―and the oceanographic survey ship Maury,” writes Military Times, here.

Lastly today: Want a careful, detailed walkthrough of the dangers inherent in the blithe handling and declassification of the nation’s secrets? George Croner, an NSA veteran-turned-law professor, lays them out in Just Security. E.g., “Imagine, for example, the adverse impact on a covert operative who now carries a gnawing distrust that his secret identity is no longer entirely secure within a classification system where the ultimate classification authority may have little or no appreciation for the potential harms associated with ‘declassification’ because he has neither the interest nor the energy to ensure that that classification system operates in the manner needed to protect those individuals who have put their lives at risk in service to the United States.” Read, here.