Defense and national security: the battle for eastern Ukraine begins

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday that Russia has begun its battle for Donbas after regrouping ahead of the expected offensive.

We’ll detail what we know so far and why peace talks seem unlikely, as well as the weapon the US intends to use to train Ukrainian forces and the latest Pentagon official to test positive for COVID-19.

This is Defense and National Security, your late-night guide to the latest happenings at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. Did a friend forward this newsletter to you? Sign up here.

Zelensky Says Russia Has Started ‘Battle for Donbas’

“Now it can be stated that the Russian troops have started the battle for Donbas, for which they have been preparing for a long time,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech. “A large part of the entire Russian army is now focused on this offensive.”

“No matter how many Russian soldiers you take there, we will fight. We will defend ourselves,” the president added, saying that he was grateful to all the Ukrainian fighters, especially in the hardest-hit areas like Donbas and Mariupol.

A second confirmation: Also on Monday, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry tweeted that Moscow’s “genocidal army is massing its forces in eastern Ukraine.”

“Rocket attacks, shelling and artillery shelling are widespread,” he said. “Mariupol is being destroyed by multi-ton aerial bombs.”

“Our warriors are defeating and will continue to defeat the enemy,” the ministry added.

An expected assault: Ukraine has been preparing for a possible attack on its eastern region since Russian forces turned their focus away from the capital city of kyiv earlier this month.

After the peace talks, the number of Russian forces in the cities of kyiv and Chernihiv decreased, a move that both the US and Ukraine said was an effort to refocus on the Donbas region.

“In reality we do not see any withdrawal of the Russian forces. What we see is that they are being repositioned and that they are planning a broader offensive in the Donbas region,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the time.

Read the full story here.

US to train Ukrainian troops in howitzers

The Pentagon will train Ukrainian troops on how to use howitzer artillery systems sent to Ukraine to help in its war with Russia, a senior US defense official said on Monday.

US forces “in the next few days” will train Ukrainian forces on howitzers outside the country. The troops will then return to Ukraine to pass on the information and train their fellow soldiers.

“We believe that we will be able to start this training in the next few days. It will only be the initial efforts. There may be more and in other places and at other times,” the official told reporters.

An unknownThey did not say where such training will take place, but it is likely that US troops based on NATO’s eastern flank, particularly in Poland and Romania, will deliver the lessons. The Pentagon has deployed thousands of US forces to reinforce NATO’s easternmost areas since Russia’s war against Ukraine began on February 24.

The official added that the US military is exploring other options to train Ukrainians in additional systems or further educate them in the use of howitzers, which were included in the Biden administration’s latest military aid package to the country.

Earlier: The US has already trained several Ukrainian soldiers on how to use automated drones, which can attack targets such as people and vehicles. Those troops were already in the US for planned military education and returned home earlier this month.

Since then, the Pentagon has explored other ways it can help Ukraine use the weapons it ships.

Read more here.


Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, the service revealed Monday.

McConville, 63, tested positive for the virus on Sunday after experiencing “very mild symptoms similar to seasonal allergies,” the Army said in a statement.

“You are currently working remotely while adhering to all [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] protocols,” according to the statement.

Recent cases: The Biden administration and Congress have grappled with a number of recent positive tests, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Vice President Harris Communications Director Jamal Simmons, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo , and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), among dozens of others.

The outbreaks have raised questions about whether leaders in Washington should continue to hold indoor events with large crowds.

Read more here.


Sinking Russian warship offers Ukraine morale, potential strategic boost

The sinking of Russia’s cruiser Moskva dealt a major blow to the Kremlin fleet in the Black Sea and offered a major public relations victory to Ukrainian forces.

The warship, which sank on Thursday after Ukrainian and US officials said it was hit by two Neptune missiles, exploded and caught fire, was the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and one of its most visible weapons. in his attack on Ukraine.

The importance is not lost on Ukrainians, who quickly began using the incident in videos and images posted on social media. But experts are divided on whether the ship’s sinking could turn the tide of the war.

Read the full story here.


  • Brig. General Krzysztof Nolbert, Polish Defense Attaché to the United States, will speak at the Business Council for International Understanding at 8:30 am
  • The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies will host a webinar on “Building Alliances and Competing with China: The Imperative for UAV Export Reforms,” ​​at 9 a.m.
  • Defense and industry officials will speak at an American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research discussion on “Joint Command and Control Across Domains: Bringing DOD’s Innovative Command and Control to Life,” at 9 a.m.
  • The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs will hold a virtual discussion on “Germany and the Impact of the War on Ukraine” at 9 a.m.
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host a virtual talk on “How the Chinese Public Views Russia’s War in Ukraine” at 11 a.m.
  • French Ambassador to the United States Philippe Etienne will speak at the Hudson Institute on “Russia’s War Against Ukraine and Its Implications for French Foreign Policy and Franco-American Relations,” at 12:00 p.m.
  • The Government Executive Media Group will hold a virtual forum on “Electrifying the Fleet of the Future,” with Rear Adm. Lorin Selby, chief of naval research at the Office of Naval Research, at 1 p.m.
  • Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall will speak at the National Press Club on the Air Force’s fiscal year 2023 budget request and his vision for transforming the department to meet future threats at 2 p.m.


Is all for today! Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!


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