Today's D Brief: Russian drones pound Kyiv; More US arms to Ukraine; Norway arrests 2 with drones; Marines limit ACVs; RoK drills begin; And a bit more.
Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine invasion, day 236: Apparent Iranian-sourced “kamikaze” drones attacked Kyiv on Monday, while other Russian missile and drone strikes hit residential buildings and critical infrastructure elsewhere in the early morning hours, knocking out electricity for hundreds of cities across Ukraine. These latest attacks on civilian areas come nearly eight months into Moscow’s invasion of its democratic neighbor, a “special military operation” which has faltered significantly in recent weeks as Russia supply lines have been damaged and its officers struggle to replace a growing number of soldiers who have been killed, wounded, or allegedly deserted since the invasion began in late February.
See and hear these drones for yourself: Photographers from Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press caught pictures of the flying weapons moments before impact, while others recorded detonation and post-detonation footage as they terrorized Kyiv’s residents for the second Monday in a row. And like last week, at least some of the drones Monday reportedly sounded like inbound aerial lawnmowers just moments before impact, as this recent video seems to indicate beginning at the 0:27 mark.
The weapons appear to have been Iranian-made Shahed-136s (Russia refers to them as “Geran-2” drones), which U.S. officials warned in July that Russian officials were acquiring. They are much like apparent Iranian-sourced drones that Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen used to attack Saudi Arabian oil refineries and infrastructure last year, as the Wall Street Journal reported last December, with one U.S. official describing the weapons as “$10,000 flying lawn mowers.”
Ukraine’s military says it shot down more than two dozen of these drones overnight in the south near Odesa and Mykolaiv. More than half of those were allegedly launched between 3 and 7 in the morning. See video of one purportedly pulled from the Black Sea over the weekend, here.
What might lie ahead: Similar future drone attacks from Russia are likely to increase pressure on Ukraine’s allies to provide Kyiv and other cities with more sophisticated air defense systems, including the U.S-made Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar system—or C-RAM, which had been used to shoot down rockets aimed at U.S.-backed forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
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Welcome to this Monday 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 1933, Albert Einstein fled Nazi Germany for the United States.
New: The U.S. military is sending another $725 million in weapons and support to Ukraine—including HIMARS long-range artillery rounds, 155mm artillery, another batch of more than 200 humvees, High-speed Anti-radiation missiles, medical kits, and more. Defense officials announced this latest batch of arms on Friday; details here.
At least 30 nations have donated military equipment to Ukraine so far. And the U.S. leads the way by a long shot, as this chart from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy illustrates (last updated two weeks ago).
WWI throwback: Take a walk through some of Ukraine’s trenches as Kyiv’s own drone units support an assault in the southern Kherson oblast. That footage would seem to confirm both sides in this conflict are digging in for a long war, as many observers (like former U.S. special operator Jack Murphy, e.g.) have anticipated.
Some of the war’s hottest front lines are allegedly in the eastern Donbas cities of Soledar and Bakhmut, “where extremely heavy fighting continues,” Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy said in his evening address Sunday. “The occupiers threw everyone they could against our forces, including 2,000 ‘prisoners,’ they are among the mercenaries right there,” he said.
Zelenskyy is also asking citizens to cut back on their evening electricity use in order to better distribute the output of facilities not yet attacked. “This is a small thing for every person's life, but extremely tangible within the entire energy system,” he said Sunday evening.
Big picture: “Ukraine’s economic health requires liberating the rest of Zaporhizia Oblast and much of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, including at least some territory Russia seized in 2014,” analysts at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War wrote in their Sunday evening assessment. “Kyiv’s insistence on regaining control of Ukrainian territory to the internationally-recognized borders is not an absolutist or extremist demand—it is the normal position of a state defending itself against an unprovoked attack as part of a war of conquest. It is also the default position of the international community under international law, as it should be.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainians in occupied Luhansk are being “forcibly registered” into Russia’s military, Kyiv’s military said Monday, which continues a trend known to be in effect for several weeks.
On the cyber front: There’s a new, unattributed ransomware hitting organizations in Ukraine and Poland; and this one shares targets with Russia’s GRU operatives, Mandiant’s John Hultquist noted Friday after Microsoft publicized the attacks.
And on the tangible spying front, Norway arrested a 51-year-old alleged Russian drone pilot Tuesday after a search at a border crossing revealed three passports in his possession, “two Russian ones and one Israeli,” according to Germany’s Deutsche Welle news. Several memory cards were also found, which included footage of an airport in Norway as well as imagery of a military helicopter.
Reuters reports this arrest is the second of its kind in a week inside Norway, which is “now Europe's largest gas supplier after a sharp reduction in flows from Russia,” the news agency noted after the first arrest last week. AFP has more from the latest incident, here.
In a reference to Soviet times, Tajikistan’s president publicly chastised Russia’s Putin Friday in Kazakhstan. In front of cameras in Astana, President Emomali Rahmon told the Russian autocrat, “I was there in those meetings in the room when the Soviet Union collapsed,” Rahmon said. “Then like now,” he warned, “and you have to forgive me for saying this, not enough attention was paid to the small republics, the small nations.” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty has more, here.
- “Putin Tried for Years to Stop His Military From Using Western Parts — And Mostly Failed,” Bloomberg reported Friday;
- “‘My son has died’: Russia mourns loss of first drafted soldiers in Ukraine,” The Guardian reported Saturday from Moscow;
- And “Winter’s Approach Raises Stakes in European Energy Crisis,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting from a continent where policymakers are preparing for “worst-case scenarios,” including blackouts and electricity rationing.
Back stateside: Amphibious Combat Vehicles must stay out of the “surf zone” for now, the Marine Corps said Friday, after one of the new amphibs rolled over near Camp Pendleton, California, on Thursday evening. No one was injured in the accident, which happened “after a reported mechanical malfunction” around 7:45 p.m. local time, the Marines said in a statement Friday.
The Corps had just lifted a pause on waterborne operations for the vehicles in September after another rollover in the waves near Camp Pendleton in July; the vehicles were also kept out of the water for three months at the end of 2021 because of a problem with the ACV’s sea tow quick-release mechanism. The Amphibious Combat Vehicle is the Marine Corps’ replacement for the Amphibious Assault Vehicle—which Marines said last December that they will avoid using in combat or water ops in the wake of the horrific 2020 sinking, also near Camp Pendleton, that killed eight Marines and a sailor.
Deputy Commandant Lt. Gen. David Furness: “We’re taking a deliberate and methodical approach to fielding this platform. This adjustment to current guidance ensures our Marines have the ability to safely train and maintain proficiency with the platform while we work to conduct additional testing.”
And lastly: South Korea’s military began annual defensive drills Monday, and some of those exercises will involve U.S. troops, Reuters reports from Seoul. The military drills come amid a sharp increase in missile launches by North Korea, including some that may have been nuclear capable.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff: “The forces will conduct real-world day and night maneuvers simulated to counter North Korea’s nuclear, missile, and other various threats, so that they can master wartime and peacetime mission performance capabilities with some U.S. forces.”
K-Pop to the rescue: Speaking of South Korea’s military… it will soon include seven very, very famous faces. The members of K-Pop group BTS will perform their mandatory military service and not seek any further delays to that commitment, NBC reported Monday. The oldest member of the group, Jin, will be the first to serve, and the group will reconvene around 2025 after all seven have served, according to NBC.