Today's D Brief: Ukraine investigating beheading video; Kyiv’s war on corruption; US semiconductors are still flowing to Russia; Guns in America; And a bit more.

Ukraine is launching an investigation into the apparent beheading of one of its soldiers at the hands of invading Russian forces. Video of the gruesome act surfaced on social media in recent days, and the alleged atrocity was “not an accident,” Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy said in a video released Wednesday. 

“This video, the execution of a Ukrainian captive—the world must see it,” Zelenskyy said. “This is not an accident. This is not an episode. This was the case earlier. This was the case in Bucha,” which is a suburb outside of Kyiv that was the scene of apparent rape, torture, and executions of Ukrainians by Russian forces one year ago. “Don't expect it to be forgotten. That time will pass,” Zelenskyy said. “We are not going to forget anything. Neither are we going to forgive the murderers.”

Ukraine’s state security service, the SBU, says it has launched an investigation into the video. “We will find these non-humans; we will get them wherever they are: from under the ground or from hell,” agency chief Vasyl Maliuk said in a statement.  

And Ukraine’s Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said Wednesday that he’s “addressed letters to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, the UN Secretary General, the International Committee of the Red Cross, to do everything possible so that the guilty are punished for every war crime!”

“The public execution of a prisoner is another proof of violation of the norms of the Geneva Conventions, international humanitarian law, violation of the fundamental right to life!” Lubinets wrote on Telegram. 

This morning at the Pentagon: Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal dropped by for an in-person visit with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Shmyhal arrived at about 10 a.m. ET. And his visit comes just days after the apparent leak of sensitive and highly secretive U.S. military assessments of the Ukraine war and both Kyiv and Moscow’s presumed capabilities ahead of an anticipated Ukrainian offensive aimed at retaking occupied territory. 

“We take this very seriously and we will continue to investigate and turn over every rock until we find the source of this and the extent of it,” Austin said Tuesday of the Justice Department’s investigation into the apparent leak. 

CIA chief William Burns said the agency may need to “tighten procedures” on classified material access. He made the short comment Tuesday during a speaking event at Rice University. Reuters has a tiny bit more, here

One detail that may help investigators: “Some images also depict printouts of documents with time stamps at the top right corners showing when they were printed,” Reuters reported separately on Tuesday. Those numbers “could be a key indicator because government classified computer systems keep logs of those who view and print documents,” according to Mark Zaid, a national security lawyer.

Update: American-made semiconductors are still finding their way to Russia via manufacturers like Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, Texas Instruments, and others, according to a new report from Nikkei Asia published Wednesday and based on customs data from the past calendar year. Sale of the high-tech items were banned immediately after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. “But Russia has continued to acquire chips through circuitous routes, with a large portion flowing through small traders in Hong Kong and mainland China,” Nikkei reports.  

One big problem: “Small trading companies in Hong Kong and elsewhere can continue to operate under new names even if subject to sanctions,” one trade lawyer told Nikkei. And that’s indeed what appears to be happening with several entities. Details, here

Related reading: 

From Defense One

How One Simulation Maker Is Adding AI, Drone Tactics // John Breeden II: BISim is updating its widely used Virtual Battle Space products to reflect developments from Ukraine to Silicon Valley.

‘A War On Two Fronts’: Ukraine Takes On Corruption As It Fights Russia // Patrick Tucker: Can the Pentagon’s inspector general satisfy skeptics while still rooting out corruption?

The Army Wants SBOMs—and So Should the Other Services    // Joel Krooswyk: Software bills of materials are key to keeping track of what code is running your weapons or systems.

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. On this day in 1864, dozens of treasonous Confederate soldiers in western Tennessee massacred over 200 surrendering American soldiers—mostly Black men serving in the 6th U.S. Regiment Colored Heavy Artillery, who had just arrived to the garrison at Fort Pillow (north of Memphis) just two weeks prior.

Taiwan has talked China into scaling back its plans to turn air space north of the island into a no-fly zone April 16-18, Taiwanese officials said. China now plans to close the air space for just under 30 minutes on Sunday morning, Reuters reports, which will have significantly less impact on air traffic in the region.
The zone in question is northeast of Taiwan and near a group of disputed islets, Reuters writes; Japan has said the zone includes Japanese territory.
A Taiwanese official said they had used “multiple channels” to convince China, and had also told countries that might be affected by the closure. This all comes on the heels of several days of Chinese military exercises around Taiwan in an aggressive response to the meeting of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and U.S. House Speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy during Ing-Wen’s layover in McCarthy’s home state. 

Nowadays, there are few things more American than guns and gun violence. But this week we learned that one of the country’s most popular handguns—the Sig Sauer P320—has a tendency to fire on its own without any kind of warning, according to an eight-month investigation published Tuesday by the Washington Post.
Speaking of guns in America, “One in five American adults have a family member who was killed by a gun—including by suicide—and a similar percentage said they've been threatened with one,” Agence France-Presse reported Tuesday off a new survey from health research group KFF. Perhaps more notably, “One-third of Black adults (34%) have a family member who was killed by a gun, twice the share of White adults who say the same (17%),” according to KFF.
What’s more, “The majority (84%) of U.S. adults say they have taken at least one precaution to protect themselves or their families from the possibility of gun violence, including nearly six in ten (58%) who have talked to their children or other family members about gun safety, and more than four in ten who have purchased a weapon other than a gun, such as a knife or pepper spray (44%), or attended a gun safety class or practiced shooting a gun (41%),” KFF writes. And when it comes to wider access to guns, two in every five Americans reported having a gun in the house, according to the survey. Nearly half of those (44%) claimed a gun “is stored in an unlocked location, and more than one-third report[ed] a gun is stored loaded.” Read over the full report, here.
Public service announcement: Merely pointing a gun at someone in a threatening way can be a misdemeanor known as aggravated assault. So, in addition to the Post’s findings and the subsequent survey above, it’s perhaps best to keep those things holstered or slung, and without a round in the chamber. Of course, responsible gun owners already know this; and we like to imagine our readers who own guns are the careful, responsible kind—and not the sort who cosplay as Navy SEALs and refer to themselves as “tactical athletes.” Be safe, y’all.