Today's D Brief: Putin cites ‘Satanism,’ ‘neo-colonialism’ during Ukraine annexation speech; Kyiv requests accelerated NATO membership; Hurricane Ian swings up the east coast; And a bit more.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin said Friday that he’s annexing 15% of Ukraine, and he claimed the illegal act must be done—among several seemingly odd justifications—as part of a wider fight against “neocolonialism” and “outright Satanism.” He cited “the slave trade, the genocide of Indian tribes in America, the plunder of India, of Africa, the wars of England and France against China” as reasons why it’s OK in his mind to take large swaths of land from his democratic neighbor. 

Referring to four partially-occupied regions of Ukraine, Putin declared Friday that “People living in Luhansk and Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are becoming our citizens forever…This is the great liberation mission of our people,” he said in a nationally televised address. And from his purported logic, “It is based on historical unity, in the name of which the generations of our ancestors won, those who from the origins of ancient Russia for centuries created and defended Russia.”

“The last leaders of the Soviet Union, contrary to the direct expression of the will of the majority of people in the referendum of 1991, destroyed our great country,” said Putin. This annexation, he implied, will restore some of Moscow’s allegedly lost luster because it is following “the will of millions of people,” but he said he is not trying to restore the Soviet Union, because “Russia today does not need it anymore.” 

According to Putin, “the Western elites” present the biggest challenge right now to nations around the world—because of their “radical denial of moral norms, religion, and family.” Tossing in a bit of transphobia, Putin said, “Do we really want ... it drilled into children in our schools ... that there are supposedly genders besides women and men, and [children to be] offered the chance to undergo sex change operations?” He insisted, “This is a complete denial of humanity, the overthrow of faith and traditional values. Indeed, the suppression of freedom itself has taken on the features of a religion: outright Satanism.” 

Putin even referenced the United Nations charter in his remarks, a charter he violated with the Russian military’s overt invasion of Ukraine in February, as well as its covert invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014. 

He also blamed “the Anglo-Saxons” for damaging the Nord Stream pipeline this week, saying, “It is clear to everyone who benefits from this.” (To read more from his speech, Kremlin officials are releasing bits of the transcript gradually on their site, here; Reuters seems to be responding to those updates with an English translation here.)

Coverage continues below…

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Explainer: Russia's Illegal Plan to Annex More of Ukraine // Tatsiana Kulakevich, The Conversation: As Moscow clears Red Square for a Friday ceremony, a look at popular sentiment in the four distinct regions.

Welcome to this Friday 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 1938, the prime ministers of Britain and France joined Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in signing a document that’s since been called the Munich Agreement, which allowed the Nazi regime to annex parts of Czechoslovakia known as the Sudetenland—in the hopes that it would appease Hitler and avert a wider war. 

In terms of nuclear weapons, Putin on Friday said the U.S. set a “precedent” when it attacked Japan 77 years ago. The reference could be a not-so-veiled warning that Moscow may choose to try to persuade Kyiv’s military from attacking annexed lands by detonating some kind of nuclear device in the future; then again, the references to Hiroshima and Nagasaki could just be Putin talking tough, since he made no specific references to Russia potentially using a nuclear weapon against Ukraine. On the other hand, he promised Friday to “defend our land with all our strength and all our means.”
Bigger picture: Russian troops in Ukraine are “on the verge of encirclement in Lyman, their main garrison in the north of Donetsk province,” Reuters reports from southern Ukraine. “Defeat there could open the way for Ukraine to recapture swathes of the territory that Putin has now declared to be part of Russia.” Find more battlefield specifics from the Institute for the Study of War, writing late Thursday evening, here.
Kyiv reax: Ukraine will apply for “accelerated accession to NATO,” President Volodymir Zelenskyy announced Friday after Putin’s remarks. “We know it's possible,” he said. “We have seen Finland and Sweden start accession to the alliance this year without a membership action plan. This is fair. This is also fair for Ukraine.”
U.S. reax: “The United States condemns Russia’s fraudulent attempt today to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Friday. “I urge all members of the international community to reject Russia’s illegal attempts at annexation and to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Biden said, and added, “I look forward to signing legislation from Congress that will provide an additional $12 billion to support Ukraine.”

  • New: The U.S. Treasury Department just sanctioned several Russian military and tech-related entities, including “14 persons in Russia’s military-industrial complex, including two international suppliers, three key leaders of Russia’s financial infrastructure, immediate family members of some of senior Russian officials, and 278 members of Russia’s legislature.” Details here.

London reax: “The UK will never recognise Russia’s illegal annexations in Ukraine,” Britain’s military chief, Ben Wallace, said in a tweet shortly after he visited his Ukrainian counterpart this week in Kyiv. “Russia doesn’t even control some of these oblasts,” Wallace tweeted Friday, and added, “The truth is Russia is losing in Ukraine and their incompetent Generals are sending thousands to their deaths to please President Putin’s imperialist fantasy.”
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Hurricane latest: Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort has battened down the hatches and was preparing for possible tornados, heavy rain, flooding and storm surge, as Hurricane Ian barrels toward South Carolina. Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, just minutes away from MCAS Beaufort, has paused all outdoor training and reported Friday morning that the base was “experiencing rain and wind from the storm.”
Update: 5,000 National Guard members are in Florida to help the areas already devastated by the hurricane, Military Times reports. National Guard Bureau Chief Daniel Hokanson said search and rescue was the immediate focus of those efforts.
“Our concern is saving lives and getting our folks in there as quickly as possible to make a difference in that critical time—to get people out of situations that may be potentially life-threating to them,” he said.
The Navy and Air Force moved dozens of aircraft and ships to other locations in advance of the storm, the Pentagon said Thursday. As of Tuesday afternoon, Eglin Air Force Base in Florida had moved its F-22s and T-38s to Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, and its F-35s to Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. Hurlburt Field, also in Florida, moved all of its C-130s to Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; its U-28s to Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, and its A-29s to Kansas City, Missouri. Jacksonville Airport moved its F-15s to New Orleans. MacDill, Fla., moved its KC-135s to National Guard bases in Maine and New Hampshire, and its UH-60s to Miami. Moody Air Force Base in Georgia moved all of its A-10s to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. Patrick Space Force Base in Florida moved its C-130s and some HH-60s to Little Rock, Arkansas, though it also moved some of its HH-60s to Orlando Convention Center and UH-1s to Cape Canaveral, Florida. Naval Station Mayport sent four littoral combat ships and two cruiser-destroyers to an undisclosed location; Naval Air Station Jacksonville evacuated 71 aircraft and Naval Air Station Key West evacuated 11.
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Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!