Today's D Brief: Bakhmut, all but fallen; B-2s, back aloft; Contractor cyber plan; Afghans at the border; And a bit more.

While Ukraine’s president visited G7 leaders in Japan this weekend, Russian invasion forces appear to have advanced almost all the way through the destroyed Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, bringing them closer than ever before to fully occupying territory their convicts and infantry have been working to capture for nearly an entire year. 

The leader of Russia’s convict-mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, claimed his forces seized the last contested blocks of Bakhmut on Saturday. “At noon on the 20 May, 2023, Bakhmut was fully taken. We have completely taken the whole city, from house to house,” he said on Telegram, as gunfire could be heard in the distance. 

Ukraine's Deputy Defence Minister, Hanna Maliar, disagreed with Prigozhin. Maliar said on Telegram Monday that Kyiv still had some of its troops staged in “certain private facilities and the private sector in the 'Litak' area” of Bakhmut, to the west. “The struggle for the dominant heights on the flanks—the north and south of the suburbs—continues,” she said, and defended Ukraine’s decision to not concede Bakhmut much earlier. “The offensive potential of the enemy has been significantly reduced” by Ukraine’s persistence in the city; “the enemy has suffered huge losses, we have gained time for certain actions, which will be discussed later,” she added. Ukraine’s top ground forces commander, Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, concurred with Malyar that only a few Ukrainian troops remain, and said they are staying close by “in case of a change of circumstances,” according to the New York Times.

“They’ve destroyed everything,” Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy said Sunday in Hiroshima, while standing beside his U.S. counterpart. “There are no buildings. It’s a pity. It’s tragedy. But, for today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts,” he said. “There is nothing on this place, so — just ground and — and a lot of dead Russians.”

  • Reuters just published a photo slideshow of the devastated city of Bakhmut, featuring 70 images from around the city over the past several months. 

What’s next for Moscow? Take a look at four locations Russia has heavily fortified in anticipation of a Ukrainian military offensive in the coming days and weeks. This new satellite imagery analysis comes to us via the BBC, which combined imagery from Planet Labs, Maxar, and more. 

The Pentagon on Sunday announced $375 million in more weapons for Ukraine, including the usual artillery stocks (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, 155mm, and 105mm rounds); anti-tank weapons; armored bridging systems; armored medical treatment vehicles; thermal optics; and more

White House reax: “Together with the entire G7, we have Ukraine’s back, and I promise we’re not going anywhere,” U.S. President Joe Biden said Sunday. “Putin will not break our resolve, as he thought he could,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Russia-Trump overlap continues: Russia unveiled a round of new sanctions against people Vladimir Putin dislikes. And strangely enough, that list includes several people former President Donald Trump also considers adversaries—like “Letitia James, Brad Raffensperger and the officer who shot Ashli Babbitt even though none has anything to do with Russia policy,” Peter Baker of the New York Times reported Sunday. 

Additional reading: 

From Defense One

Defense One Radio, Ep. 125: The Army’s recruiting crisis; the science of special forces; and NATO’s Mircea Geoană // Patrick Tucker, Ben Watson, and Sam Skove: Can the Army pull itself out of a two-year recruiting slump? And what sort of gear is drawing the attention of America's special operators?

B-2s to Return to Flight after Five Months // Audrey Decker: Air Force officials still won’t say why one of the stealthy bombers was forced to land in December.

Pentagon Outlines Upcoming Contractor Cybersecurity Plan // Lauren C. Williams: Expect the congressionally mandated strategy by year’s end, DOD CISO says.

GEOINT Symposium Conference Wire: Who's Up // Lauren C. Williams: What to expect at the 20th edition of the "largest gathering of geospatial intelligence professionals in the nation."

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1968, the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered submarine USS Scorpion (SSN-589) sank in unknown circumstances in the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, killing all 99 personnel onboard. 

The U.S. military thought it had killed a senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, but investigators later learned the deceased was merely a farmer and father of 10. Confronted with this update, the U.S. military conceded it is “no longer confident” in its initial assessment, according to the Washington Post, reporting late last week—with a lift from AirWars veterans.
Related reading:

Back stateside: House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers of Alabama is angry over an alleged Pentagon delay in officially moving Space Command headquarters to Huntsville, Ala. So Rogers is now demanding (PDF) Defense Department personnel preserve all communications related to the matter, going back to January 2021, which is also when Rogers refused to certify the 2020 election results. Space News and The Hill have more.

More than 3,700 Afghans have made the incredible journey to the U.S.-Mexico border from their devastated home country since the Taliban took over in August 2021. The New York Times followed one such group of refugees for an incredible, photo-packed special report published Sunday. Worth the click, here

And lastly today: While the world’s richest armies spend billions on the newest weapons, a 13-year-old from lakeside Michigan recently found that his slingshot was enough to save his younger sister from a would-be kidnapper.
What happened: A 17-year-old male reportedly attempted to abduct the eight-year-old girl while she was picking mushrooms and her brother was playing video games. But he heard her screams, and reached for the closest thing he thought might help, which happened to be a slingshot and a marble. He struck the assailant with quickness and precision, giving her the moment she needed to slip free of his grasp and flee home safely, according to the Associated Press.
“Police caught the suspect and said he had visible wounds,” AP reported last week, and added that, “The teen has been charged with attempted kidnapping and other crimes.” A bit more, here.