Defense & National Security — Russian shelling ongoing in Ukraine as winter sets in
As Russia continues to pound Ukraine with a barrage of shelling, Kyiv claims Moscow is also planning a false flag attack on a major nuclear power plant in Belarus to gain the former Soviet state’s muscle in the war.
We’ll share what we know about that, plus a possible new Congressional committee on China and what to expect in Russia’s attack on Ukraine as winter closes in.
This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. A friend forward this newsletter to you?
Ukraine: Russia planning false flag attack in Belarus
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry on Sunday claimed that Russia is planning a false flag attack on a major nuclear power plant in Belarus as part of an alleged effort to rope the country into its war against Ukraine.
The ministry’s intelligence arm said in a release that Russian special forces were planning “several terrorist attacks” across Belarus and are targeting critical infrastructure located near European Union and Ukrainian borders, including the Ostrovets nuclear power plant near the Lithuanian border.
Joining the fight?: “All this should accelerate the involvement of the Belarusian army in the war in Ukraine,” the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said, “as well as to create the necessary public opinion for the Kremlin in Belarusian society.”
Ukrainian intelligence also claimed that Ukrainian people or members of NATO countries would be dressed in Belarusian military uniforms and then blamed for the attack.
The US response: The Pentagon said in a statement that it was closely monitoring the conflict but would “not speculate on hypothetical situations.”
Timing: The allegation came as Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which has been controlled by Russian forces since March, was rocked by shelling over the weekend, with Kyiv and Moscow trading blame, Reuters reported.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday told NATO leaders during a video address, “We all need guaranteed protection from Russian sabotage at nuclear facilities.”
EASTERN UKRAINE HIT WITH 400 SHELLING INCIDENTS IN SINGLE DAY
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said eastern Ukraine was hit with nearly
400 shelling incidents on Sunday alone as Russia continues to pound the country.
“Although there are fewer attacks today due to the deterioration of the weather, the number of Russian shelling occasions remains, unfortunately, very high,” Zelensky said in his nightly address to Ukrainians.
“As of now, there have been almost 400 shelling occasions in the east since the beginning of the day,” the president said.
Where the fighting is: Zelensky said “the fiercest battles” are concentrated in the Donetsk region, and that Ukrainian forces are “little by little … moving forward with battles” in the Luhansk region.
The regions are the easternmost in Ukraine, touching the Russian border. Russian President Vladimir Putin in September moved to annex Donetsk and Luhansk, along with the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.
The Zelensky also said Ukraine is “holding the line” in southern Ukraine, “consistently and very calculatedly destroying the potential of the occupiers.”
McCarthy planning committee on China if Speaker
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Sunday that he’ll spearhead a House select committee on China if he’s elected Speaker when the new Congress convenes next year.
“They never once in this majority had a hearing [on] where COVID originated from … They have never stood up to China,” McCarthy said of Democrats in an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”
“When I become Speaker, I’m going to have a select committee on China,” McCarthy said, confirming long-expected plans.
Setting the groundwork: Republicans are readying for majority power after winning the House by a slim margin in this month’s midterms, with plans to investigate the U.S.-Mexico border, allegations against President Biden’s son Hunter Biden and the origins of COVID-19.
“China is the No. 1 country when it comes to intellectual property theft. All the other nations combined, China steals more than them. We will put a stop to this and no longer allow the administration to sit back and let China do what they are doing to America,” McCarthy said Sunday.
FROM THE WEEKEND
Ukraine readies for cold, dangerous chapter in war
Snowfall across Ukraine is signaling the official arrival of winter, setting up a dangerous chapter in the war with Russia as Moscow targets Ukraine’s power and energy supplies to deprive the country of heat and electricity.
Anna Grigolaya, the operations manager in the city of Dnipro for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), said the situation will be critical for millions of Ukrainians suffering through more regular and sustained blackouts.
“Our mission now is to prepare people for probably the worst winter in their lives,” she said.
The Kremlin’s strategy: More than nine months since Russia’s invasion, Moscow has turned toward a strategy that targets Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and electricity supplies in an effort to destroy the country and break the will of the people.
“This is a deliberate tactic by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said during a meeting of the Security Council this week.
“He seems to have decided that if he can’t seize Ukraine by force, he will try to freeze the country into submission. It is hard to overstate how horrific these attacks are,” she added.
Earlier attacks: Russia launched its largest barrage of missile attacks across Ukraine earlier this week, deploying at least 96 missiles in one day. The barrage included explosive drones provided by Iran that targeted civilian infrastructure and temporarily disconnected 10 million people from power sources as temperatures began to drop.
British Ambassador to the United Nations Barbara Woodward said at a Security Council meeting that “Russia is knowingly trying to gain military advantage by creating desperation.”
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
The Hudson Institute will host a conversation with Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), on “Exploiting Commercial Innovation to Regain Military Advantage,” at 12 p.m.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- Austin says US will support Ukraine ‘for as long as it takes’
- Divided GOP tiptoes on Biden request for more Ukraine aid
- Blinken arrives in Qatar for US World Cup opener
- Ukraine to investigate alleged prisoner shooting video
- Ukraine nuclear plant shelled, UN watchdog says
- Cotton backs Biden on shielding Saudi leader from Khashoggi lawsuit
- Austin warns Russian war on Ukraine could lead to a ‘dangerous spiral of nuclear proliferation’
- Iran and Russia reach deal to produce unmanned weaponized aircraft: report
- The Hill: Opinion: A new nuclear weapons delivery system is the last thing the