The D Brief: Z threatens Russian troops

Run for your lives. That’s the message Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sent to Russian troops late Monday night, after the apparent start of the long-awaited counteroffensive in Ukraine’s south.

“If they want to survive, it’s time for the Russian military to run away. Go home. Ukraine is taking back its own (land),” Zelenskyy said, according to Reuters, which has video of part of his speech, here.

The Russian government has a different view of the situation, of course: They say they’ve repelled Ukrainian attacks and will continue to push forward with their invasion. “All our goals will be reached,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, Reuters reported.

Fact-check: Ukraine has “increased the weight of artillery fires” across southern Ukraine and continues to disrupt Russian supply lines with long-range strikes, the British Defence Ministry noted in an intelligence update posted Tuesday on Twitter. While it’s not possible to determine “the extent of Ukrainian advances,” the ministry said, Russia has been reorganizing its forces since the beginning of the month, and most Russian units around Kherson are “likely under-manned.”

Tricky, tricky, tricky. Ukraine has been using decoy artillery batteries to trick Russia into using its long-range cruise missiles, the Washington Post reports. The wooden dummies—built to look like advanced weapons systems sent by the U.S.—have drawn “at least 10 Kalibr cruise missiles,” according to a Ukrainian official. The replicas may also explain why, according to one U.S. diplomat, Russia has “claimed to have hit more HIMARS than we have even sent.”

The White House is calling for a demilitarized zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. “A nuclear power plant is not the appropriate location for combat operations,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday, adding that the U.S. also believes the power outage last week shows why “a controlled shutdown” of the plant’s nuclear reactors is necessary immediately. You’ll recall that a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency is on its way to inspect that plant now.

Meanwhile, Iran has given its first shipment of drones to Russia to use in its ongoing invasion, WaPo reports, noting that the drones have not performed as well in tests as Russia had hoped. More details, here.

Gas as a weapon? France is accusing Russia of using its supply of energy as a “weapon of war,” as European countries scramble to find alternatives to Russian gas and deal with spiking energy costs, Reuters reports.

Getting the gang back together. SecDef Lloyd Austin will host defense leaders next week at Ramstein Air Base in Germany for a meeting of the “Ukraine Defense Contact Group,” the fourth such meeting since Russia’s invasion began, Stars and Stripes reported Monday.

Also meeting soon: European Union foreign ministers, to discuss whether Russians should be allowed to travel throughout the EU as tourists, Reuters reports.

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