Today's D Brief: ‘Ukrainian blitzkrieg’ erases some Russian advances; Conservative groups push to end Kyiv aid; Army’s future course; 10 Qs for the SecDefs; And a bit more.
Ukraine’s counteroffensive against the mighty Russian military is proceeding “like a snowball rolling down a hill,” Ukraine’s military chief Oleksii Reznikov told the Financial Times this weekend, after several days of surging into territory recently occupied by Russian invaders. Soon afterward, still more gains lent his remarks additional weight and credibility, at least for the time being.
Ukraine has advanced rapidly around Kharkiv, allegedly regaining more than 3,000 square kilometers (1,158 square miles) as they’ve pushed some of Moscow’s invading troops all the way back to “the state border with the Russian Federation,” according to Oleh Syniehubov, a regional official in Kharkiv. Reznikov called the ongoing counteroffensive a “Ukrainian blitzkrieg,” according to FT. Since Wednesday, when the blitz began, “Ukraine has recaptured territory at least twice the size of Greater London,” the British military said in its latest update from Russia’s Ukraine invasion on Monday.
For some perspective, consider this: Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky claimed Ukraine had retaken 1,000 sq km of territory on Thursday evening, and then 2,000 sq km by Saturday. The latest 3,000-km estimate comes from Zelenskyy’s top military officer, Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, who shared it Sunday on Telegram.
- See also these useful terrain maps from the New York Times data visualization team, updated Monday morning; and Reuters has a similar data-viz product, here. Agence France-Presse has a 100-second video report from northeastern Ukraine that you can catch on Twitter, here.
Most analysts view Ukraine’s “blitz” as its biggest and most tangible success to date, at least since pushing Russian forces out of the suburbs around the capital city of Kyiv back in March, just days after Vladimir Putin’s forces invaded with their 40-mile convoy of trucks and tanks. But despite all this, it’s worth noting that “Russians still hold around a fifth of the country, and few imagine a swift end to the war,” as the BBC reminds us.
Another surprise, if true: “Ukrainian forces outnumbered Russians by eight to one in last week's counter-attack in the Kharkiv region,” the BBC reported separately on Monday, citing Russia’s top occupation official for Kharkiv, Vitaly Ganchev.
War-crimes watch: Russia responded to its apparent losses and retreats by attacking Ukrainian power stations with precision strikes, shutting off power across different parts of the country on Sunday—allegedly via stations in Kharkiv and Donetsk, whose regions both experienced a “total blackout,” according to Zelenskyy, who shared a 30-second video of Ukraine’s second-biggest heat and power plant after it was apparently attacked. Other affected regions included Dnipro and Poltava, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov. Alleged partial blackouts also struck Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, and Sumy regions, the president tweeted Sunday, and said Russian “terrorists remain terrorists and attack critical infrastructure. No military facilities, the goal is to deprive people of light and heat.”
Meanwhile, “The Russians continued shelling Nikopol across the Dnieper from the Zaporizhzhia [nuclear] power plant, damaging several buildings there and leaving Europe’s largest nuclear facility in a precarious position,” the Associated Press reported Monday from Kharkiv. This is particularly important because “The last operational reactor in that plant has been shut down in a bid to prevent a radiation disaster as fighting raged nearby.”
Coverage continues below the fold…
From Defense One
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10 High-School Questions for the Authors of the ‘Principles’ Open Letter // Paul Yingling: Actual civics students would demand more from the former SecDefs and retired four-stars who opined so vaguely on civil-military “best practices.”
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DOD Must Put Software at the Core of Its Operations, Report Says // Edward Graham: The CIA's chief technology officer and the former head of the Air Force's Project Maven want to yank the Pentagon out of the industrial age into the digital age.
Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with 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 1814, Maryland militiamen repelled a British advance on the city of Baltimore, killing the general in charge of the burning of the capital just a few weeks earlier, British Maj. Gen. Robert Ross.
The message from the Kremlin today: Everything is fine. Or, more literally, “The special military operation continues and will continue until all the goals that were initially set are achieved,” spokesman Dmetri Peskov said in a statement Monday, according to state-run media, TASS.
The Brits believe that everything is not fine with the Russian military, and state that, “The rapid Ukrainian successes have significant implications for Russia’s overall operational design.” That’s because they believe “The majority of the force in Ukraine is highly likely being forced to prioritize emergency defensive actions,” and “The already limited trust deployed troops have in Russia’s senior military leadership is likely to deteriorate further.”
- Related viewing: Don’t miss a satirical “Honest Russian Military Recruitment Video,” published over on YouTube nine days ago.
Update: Russian officials also seem to have “indefinitely postponed” their annexation referenda across several occupied Ukrainian territories, according to the latest analysis from the Institute for the Study of War, citing Latvia-based Russian-language outlet Meduza.
Zelenskyy is already setting his sights on what comes next, and wants Europe to do so as well. “There are 90 days ahead, which will be more crucial than 30 years of Ukraine's independence; 90 days that will be more crucial than all the years of the existence of the European Union,” he said Saturday at a Ukraine-focused conference known as Yalta European Strategy. “This will be the most difficult winter in the whole world. These will be 90 days that will be a test for our faith in victory. A test for our endurance and unity, for our ability to protect ourselves, the whole world, freedom and fundamental values for any person in the world.”
Zelenskyy’s plea to European capitals: “You need to be ready to prevent any Russian sabotage—armed or political, and it is very important to prevent disinformation steps by Russia. And therefore, we need even more coordination, firmness, and pressure on Russia.” That means more “sanctions on Russia, officials, banks, and companies as much as possible. You know all this,” he said.
“Russia has already embarked on the path of its historic defeat,” Zelenskyy continued, “and the clarity of this path, the contours of its defeat will become obvious after these 90 days,” he promised, but conditioned that saying it will only happen, “If we are all honest and persevere. All who value peace more than war. Ukrainians, Europeans, the whole world.”
- “Russia shrugs off retreat in northeast Ukraine as Putin focuses on economy,” via Reuters, reporting Monday from London;
- “European Manufacturers Reel From Russian Gas Shutoff,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Monday; Reuters has similar coverage from Monday as well, here;
- “Norway 'Sceptical' About Gas Price Cap: PM,” AFP reported Monday;
- “It’s Time to Prepare for a Ukrainian Victory,” via journalist and historian Anne Applebaum, writing Sunday in The Atlantic;
- And “Montenegro wrestles with massive cyberattack, Russia blamed,” via AP, reporting Monday the capital city of Podgorica.
U.S. Navy withholding court records on Bonhomme Richard fire. In the runup to the court-martial of the sailor accused of setting the July 2020 blaze that destroyed the billion-dollar warship, ProPublica requested documents filed by prosecutors in federal court—and was rebuffed, apparently in violation of a seven-year-old law requiring transparency. Read on, here.
And lastly: On Tuesday, New America and Arizona State University are teaming up for a conference focused on the future of national security—featuring discussions on Afghanistan, domestic extremism, cybersecurity, and more. Guests include U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Steven Edwards, who commands Special Operations Command Europe; and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly is also on board. It all begins at 12:30 ET; check the schedule and full guest list at the same place you can register for the events right here.