RUSSIA MOVES TO EXERT CONTROL: As Russia has allowed a small number of civilians to evacuate the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Russian forces appear to be trying to lock in some gains ahead of the annual May 9 Victory Day celebration in Moscow, marking the surrender of the Nazis in World War II.

“Russian forces are setting conditions to establish permanent control over the areas of southern Ukraine they currently occupy, either as nominally independent ‘People’s Republics’ or by annexing them to Russia,” says the latest analysis from the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. “Russian sources reported that stores in occupied Melitopol and Volnovakha are beginning to transition to using the Russian ruble.”

“Since seizing the southern city of Kherson in early March, Russia has sought to legitimize its control of the city and surrounding areas through installing a pro-Russian administration,” tweeted the British Defense Ministry over the weekend. “Recent statements from this administration include declaring a return to Ukrainian control ‘impossible’ and announcing a four-month currency transition from the Ukrainian hryvnia to the Russian ruble. The Russian ruble is due to be used in Kherson from today.”

Russian forces have also reportedly instituted an internet and mobile phone blackout in Kherson in an attempt to solidify political control.

“These statements are likely indicative of Russian intent to exert strong political and economic influence in Kherson over the long term,” according to the British intelligence assessment. “Enduring control over Kherson and its transport links will increase Russia’s ability to sustain its advance to the north and west and improve the security of Russia’s control over Crimea.”


THE MARIUPOL EVACUATION: The first civilians allowed to leave the bombed-out Azovstal steel complex are due to arrive in Ukrainian-controlled Zaporizhzhia today under a U.N.-brokered “safe passage” agreement that seems to be holding.

“After many weeks of negotiations, after many attempts, different meetings, people, calls, countries, proposals. Finally!” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last night. “For the first time in all the days of the war, this vital corridor has started working. For the first time there were two days of real ceasefire on this territory. More than a hundred civilians have already been evacuated — women and children first of all. Who were fleeing hostilities there.”

But at the same time, Russian forces continue to bomb the Azovstal complex, where up to 2,000 Ukrainian troops, some wounded, and hundreds of civilians remained trapped.


RUSSIAN LOSSES STEEP: While Russia appears to be preparing to declare some form of victory in the southern part of Ukraine, it continues to suffer heavy losses on the battlefield.

“At the start of the conflict, Russia committed over 120 battalion tactical groups, approximately 65% of its entire ground combat strength,” according to British intelligence. “It is likely that more than a quarter of these units have now been rendered combat ineffective.”

“Some of Russia’s most elite units, including the VDV Airborne Forces, have suffered the highest levels of attrition. It will probably take years for Russia to reconstitute these forces,” the U.K. defense ministry said in a tweet.

At the Pentagon, spokesman John Kirby said the attrition of Russia's combat capability is what Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was talking about when he said the U.S. wants to see a weakened Russia that can’t bully its neighbors.

“His point was, and this has always been, from the outset of this war, it has been administration policy to not allow Russia to be in a position to do this again,” Kirby said at Friday’s briefing. “They are already a weaker military. They have suffered thousands of casualties. They have lost airplanes. They have lost tanks. They have certainly lost battles. And they are certainly a weaker military than they were 64 days ago, no question about it.”


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HAPPENING THIS WEEK: Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi arrives tomorrow for a three-day visit to the United States and is scheduled to meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Wednesday. Japan was among the 40 countries represented at the Ukraine Contact Group that met for the first time at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany last week to discuss how to keep the flow of arms and economic support for Ukraine going over the coming months.

“Items on the agenda, of course, include Ukraine,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. “They'll talk about China, of course, North Korea and defense cooperation initiatives to strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. alliance.”

In addition to his Pentagon visit, Kishi will also tour the Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Cyber Command.

HAPPENING TOMORROW: President Joe Biden is scheduled to travel to Troy, Alabama, to tour a Lockheed Martin facility that manufactures Javelin anti-tank missiles that have been critical in destroying hundreds of Russian tanks in the first two months of the war.

"Lockheed Martin is proud to support our customers and we welcome President Biden to our Troy facility," the company tweeted.

The Javelin, which allows the operator to “fire and forget,” is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

THE ‘JACK-IN-THE-BOX FLAW’: The first I heard of the fatal design flaw that has turned Russia’s T-72 Soviet-era battle tank into a death trap for Russian crews was from retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who explained the phenomenon that has been dubbed the “jack-in-the-box” flaw.

Unlike American M1-A2 Abrams tanks, made by General Dynamics Land Systems, where the ammunition is stored separate from the crew compartment, the Russian tanks have the ammunition arrayed in a circle inside the turret, where the rounds are loaded automatically instead of manually. The result is that when a Javelin hits from above, the tank literally blows its top.

“So if the turret is penetrated — and all our weapons penetrate the turrets without bound, particularly the Javelin from top where the armor is thinnest — that exposed ammunition will cook off immediately,” explained Eaton last week on CNN, where he is a military analyst. “The whole exposed ammunition program inside the turret will blow, which kicks it several meters in the air, flips it, and that is why we have this … spectacle on the battlefield of dead Russian soldiers and tanks destroyed.”

“So, the M1 tank, which is probably the best tank in the world, certainly the best I've ever worked with, all of our ammunition is behind blast doors,” said Eaton. “If the tank is penetrated and hits ammunition, there are gas release ports to make sure that the crew is kept safe and the tank actually can still operate.”

The Washington Post has a useful graphic that shows the design flaw that has turned the T-72 and other Soviet-era tanks into the “widow-maker.”

As of this morning, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry claims more than 1,000 tank kills.


‘AN EMOTIONAL MEETING’: About 160 members of the Florida National Guard who were pulled out of Ukraine three months ago, as the Russian invasion was becoming more obvious, have been reunited with some of the Ukrainians they were training.

“I can announce that the United States has commenced training with the Ukrainian Armed Forces on key systems at U.S. military installations in Germany,” said Kirby on Friday. “These efforts build on the initial artillery training that Ukraine's forces already have received elsewhere, and also includes training on the radar systems and armored vehicles that have been recently announced as part of security assistance packages.”

The American troops, who had been rotated into Ukraine last year as part of the Joint Multinational Training Group Ukraine, were ordered to reposition in Germany as the war broke out. “The recent reunion now of these Florida National Guard members with their Ukrainian colleagues, we are told, was an emotional meeting, given the strong bonds that were formed as they were living and working together before temporarily parting ways in February.”

“We shouldn't forget that a big part of Ukraine's soldiers' ability to defend the country as well as they have has been the training that they have gotten over the past eight years,” said Kirby. “They have better command and control. They have better battlefield initiative. They have a competent noncommissioned officer corps that is empowered on the field of battle to make tactical decisions. That didn't happen by accident.”


PELOSI LEADS SMALL DELEGATION TO KYIV: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a delegation of Democrats who slipped into Ukraine Saturday from Poland for a face-to-face visit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Zelensky tweeted a video of Pelosi and fellow Democrats walking in the streets of Kyiv and sitting down for what he called “four hours of very substantive negotiations.”

“I thanked for the revival of the historic Lend-Lease program, which once helped protect freedom in Europe and can certainly do so a second time,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address. “We discussed specific areas, how Lend-Lease can work to strengthen our state as much as possible and help in the struggle for freedom. I also thanked for the preparation of a large package of aid to Ukraine worth $33 billion.”

“We are on a frontier of freedom and your fight is a fight for everyone. Thank you for your fight for freedom,” Pelosi is seen on the video telling Zelensky. “Our commitment is to be there for you until the fight is done.”

The small group of House members included Adam Schiff and Barbara Lee of California, Jim McGovern and Bill Keating of Massachusetts, Gregory Meeks of New York, and Jason Crow of Colorado.

Pelosi, who is third in line to the presidency, is the most senior American lawmaker to visit Ukraine, and her trip comes one week after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a similar unannounced visit.


MCCAUL: ‘I’D CALL CONGRESS BACK INTO SESSION’: Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called for quick action on Biden’s $33 billion funding request for Ukraine through September, noting that the House is currently not in session.

“The next two to three weeks are going to be very pivotal and very decisive in this war. And I don't think we have a lot of time to waste in Congress,” McCaul said on ABC yesterday. “I wish we had this a little bit sooner, but we have it now. You know, if I were speaker for a day, I'd call Congress back into session.”

“Every day we don't send them more weapons is a day where more people will be killed and a day where they could lose this war,” he said on ABC’s This Week. “I think they can win it, but we have to give them the tools to do it.”


GRADUATION SEASON: It’s that time of year, when administration officials divide up the commencement speech duties at the various service academies.

The White House says President Joe Biden will deliver the commencement address to the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2022 graduation and commissioning ceremony May 27 at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The ceremony is not open to the public but will be livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube.

Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at last year’s Annapolis commencement, while Defense Secretary Mark Esper addressed the graduates in 2020, which was a virtual ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be traveling to Colorado Springs to deliver the commencement speech for the U.S. Air Force Academy Class on May 25.


The Rundown

Washington Examiner: Top Russian general narrowly escapes Ukrainian attack that killed 200: Report

Washington Examiner: Russia claims it destroyed US weapons in Ukraine airfield attack

Washington Examiner: 'Sabotage': Railway bridge collapses, explosions heard, and fires break out in Russia

Washington Examiner: GOP lawmaker submits AUMF to 'deter' Putin from using nukes in Ukraine

Washington Examiner: Pentagon spokesman chokes up condemning Russian 'depravity' in Ukraine

Washington Examiner: $33 billion Biden proposal for Ukraine meant to last five months, Pentagon says

Washington Examiner: Three foreign nationals killed fighting Russia in Ukraine

Washington Examiner: NATO scrambled jets over Baltic and Black seas over Russian aircraft

Washington Examiner: Putin ‘absolutely’ shouldn’t be invited to G-20 summit, Pentagon spokesman says

Washington Examiner: Ukraine admits 'Ghost of Kyiv' isn't real

Washington Examiner: Meet the publisher bringing JRR Tolkien and military manuals to Ukraine's readers

Washington Examiner: Russia to discuss lunar base with China

Washington Examiner: Kamala Harris to deliver Coast Guard Academy commencement speech

Washington Examiner: Editorial: To yield to Putin's nuclear threats would be to yield the free world's future

New York Times: Russia’s Top Officer Visited The Front Line To Change The Offensive’s Course, U.S. And Ukraine Officials Say.

Washington Post: Europe Scrambles To Replace Energy Imports From Russia

CNN: Russians plunder $5M farm vehicles from Ukraine -- to find they've been remotely disabled

Air Force Magazine: Ukraine Wants F-16s, But USAF Officials Say That’s ‘Not A Recipe for Success’

South China Morning Post: Is China Ready For Aircraft Carrier No 4? Talk Swirls Over Stealth Fighter Jets At PLA Naval Base

Defense Daily: Navy Strike Fighter Gap Now Lasting Until 2031, Lawmakers Say

National Interest: U.S. Navy And Marine Corps Are Integrating In Preparation For Pacific Warfare Hundreds of Sailors Being Moved Off Carrier After Surge of Suicides, Captain Tells Crew

The Hill: String Of Deaths On Navy Aircraft Carrier Spurs Calls For Change

Military Times: Pentagon Budget Aims To Shrink The Military By Thousands

Task & Purpose: How The U.S. Military’s Reliance On Fossil Fuels Puts Troops In Danger

Defense One: ‘We Should Have Been There’: Marine General Laments The State Of The Amphib Navy

Defense Daily: DoD Estimates Fuel Will Cost Over $3 Billion More Than Expected In FY ‘22, Comptroller Says

Air Force Magazine: Air Force Ending Program for Career Airmen to Apply for Preferred Bases Opinion: John Bolton: Why North Korea Wants Nuclear Weapons: Korean Unification Opinion: Force Design 2030 Is Not All About the South China Sea Opinion: We Think We Know Why So Many Russian Tanks Are Dying in Ukraine



9 a.m. — Atlantic Council virtual conference: “Priorities for the NATO Summit and security in Europe," with Lithuanian Minister of National Defense Arvydas Anusauskas; retired Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, former supreme allied commander Europe; former Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright; and Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

12 p.m. — Hudson Institute virtual discussion: “Should the U.S. Overhaul its Defense Strategy?" with House Armed Services ranking member Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala.; and Bryan Clark, director of the Hudson Center for Defense Concepts and Technology

1 p.m. — Brookings Institution virtual discussion: “The Future of American Air Power," with Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall; Mike Moeller, vice president for business development and international programs at Pratt & Whitney; Kevin Mickey, sector vice president and general manager at the Northrop Grumman Air Dominance Division; Rebecca Grant, president of IRIS Independent Research; and Stephen Mueller, vice president for Air Force programs at Lockheed Martin


6:30 a.m. London, England — Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit: "Russia, Ukraine and the New World Order,” with U.K. Defense Staff Chief Adm. Tony Radakin

10 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: “The Spear and the Shield? Japan's Defense Strategy Trajectory," with former Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera; former Japanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahisa Sato; and Sheila Smith, senior fellow for Asia-Pacific studies at the Council on Foreign Relations

11 a.m. — Washington Post Live virtual discussion: “World Press Freedom,” with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and TV Rain journalists Tikhon Dzyadko and Ekaterina Kotrikadze

11 a.m. — Arms Control Association, the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, and the Princeton University Program on Science and Global Security virtual discussion: “The Threat of Use of Nuclear Weapons and Russia's War on Ukraine: Meeting the Legal and Political Challenge," with Ariana Smith, executive director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy; Zia Mian, co-director of Princeton University's Program on Science and Global Security; John Burroughs, senior analyst at the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy; Daryl Kimball, ACA executive director; and Alexander Kmentt, director of disarmament, arms control and nonproliferation at the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs


8 a.m. 901 Massachusetts Ave. N.W. — Economic Club of Washington, D.C. discussion with Kathy Warden, chair, CEO and president of Northrop Grumman Corporation.

8:30 a.m. 2900 K St. N.W. — National Defense Industrial Association U.S.-Sweden Defense Industry Conference: “The Return of Great Power Competition," with Swedish Ambassador to the U.S. Karin Olofsdotter; Swedish Ministry of Defense State Secretary J.O. Lind; and Michael Vaccaro, principal deputy assistant secretary for defense industrial base policy in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment,

10 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: “Force Design 2030 and Marine Corps Modernization Efforts," with Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, commanding general at Marine Corps Combat Development Command; and retired navy Vice Adm. Peter Daly, CEO and publisher at the U.S. Naval Institute

11 a.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “China's Discourse Power Operations in the Global South," with Paul Nantulya, research associate at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies; Dawn Murphy, associate professor of international security at the Air War College; Kenton Thibaut, resident China fellow at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab; and Pepe Zhang, associate director at the Atlantic Council's Latin America Center

2 p.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual "Civics at Work" launch event, focusing on civic education as a national security imperative, with Brad Smith, president and vice chair of Microsoft; Tom Fanning, president and CEO of the Southern Company; Teresa Hutson, vice president of tech and corporate responsibility at Microsoft; Michael Carney, senior vice president of emerging issues at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation; and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center

2:30 p.m. 562 Dirksen — Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe hearing: “Russian War Crimes in Ukraine," with U.S. Ambassador at Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack; Ukraine Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova; Wolfgang Benedek, emeritus university professor of public international law at the University of Graz; Veronika Bilkova, associate professor and faculty of law at Charles University in Prague; Marco Sassoli, international law professor at the University of Geneva; and Timothy Snyder, history professor at Yale University and permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna Livestream at

6 p.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: “Australia's Election: Foreign Policy and National Security Implications," with Amelia Adams, senior U.S. correspondent at Nine Network Australia; Peter Hartcher, political editor and international editor at the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age; and Stan Grant, ABC international affairs analyst and host of "China Tonight"


9:30 a.m. — Brookings Institution virtual discussion: “U.S. Grand Strategy Under President Biden and Beyond," with panels on "The Biden Administration's National Security Agenda,” and "Future National Security Challenges"

9:30 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: “Ukraine's Impact on Asia and Korea," with former South Korean Ambassador to Russia Wi Sung-lac; and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, director of Stanford University's Institute for International Studies

11 a.m. — Washington Post Live virtual discussion with Swedish Ambassador to the U.S. Karin Olofsdotter on "the growing public support in her country to join NATO" and rising tensions between her country and Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.

12 p.m. — Hudson Institute virtual discussion: “National Security Presidential Memorandum-13 (NSPM-13) and the Future of Cyber Warfare," with Alexei Bulazel, cyber policy expert at the Alumnus, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Computer Security Team; J.D. Work, professor at the National Defense University; Joshua Steinman, CEO and co-founder of Galvanick; and Ezra Cohen, adjunct fellow at Hudson

1 p.m. —Nextgov, Defense One and Route Fifty virtual discussion: “Cyber Defenders: Part Two, The Road Ahead," with Steven Hernandez, chief information security officer and director of information assurance services at the Education Department;

2:30 p.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “The national security implications of small satellites," with Alan Pellegrini, CEO at Thales North America; Nicholas Eftimiades, professor at the Penn State University Homeland Security Program; Paula Trimble, policy chief and legislative affairs director at the Defense Department's Space Development Agency; Bleddyn Bowen, associate professor at the University of Leicester; Paul Graziani, CEO and co-founder at Analytical Graphics Inc.; Sandra Erwin, senior staff writer at SpaceNews; and Frederick Kempe, president and CEO at the Atlantic Council

1 p.m. — SETA Foundation at Washington D.C. virtual discussion: “Can the Western Policy Help Ukraine Achieve Victory?” with Steven Pifer, nonresident senior fellow, Brookings Institution; Kathryn Stoner, senior fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University; Kilic Kanat, research director, SETA Foundation; and moderator Kadir Ustun, executive director, SETA Foundation

3 p.m. 2121 K St. N.W. — International Institute for Strategic Studies roundtable discussion: “America's Defense Trade," with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Regional Security Mira Resnick; and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Defense Trade Mike Miller

4 p.m. — Woodrow Wilson Center Polar Institute virtual discussion: “Nordic Security Perspectives in the Arctic," with Norwegian Ambassador to the U.S. Anniken Ramberg Krutnes; Danish Ambassador to the U.S. Lone Dencker Wisborg; and Michael Sfraga, chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and the WWC Polar Institute

7 p.m. — Council for a Livable World virtual discussion, “Nuclear Justice and the Future of U.S. Nuclear Weapons," with Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif.,

7:30 p.m. — Stanford University Institute for International Studies Sidney Drell Lecture: “The President's Nuclear Button," with Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif.


4 a.m. Florence, Italy — Woodrow Wilson Center Global Europe Program virtual conference: “The State of the Union: A Europe Fit for the Next Generation?" with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola


“Thank you for that introduction. And a special thanks to the 42% of you who actually applauded. I’m really excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than I have.”

President Joe Biden in remarks at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner Saturday night.