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Transcript

Senior Defense Official Holds a Background Briefing

March 17, 2022

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: There really hasn't been a lot of changes to talk about. The only thing that I would highlight -- more than 1,000 missile launches now. We have observed some, I wouldn't call it increased, but continued naval activity in the north Black Sea off the coast of Odessa, but no shelling over the course of the last 24 hours that no imminent signs of an amphibious assault on Odessa. That's really it in terms of changes from yesterday.  We'll start going with questions.

Bob?

Q: OK, hi, (omitted). Actually, on the very point you started off with, that there hasn't been a lot of change over the three weeks, and with regard to Kyiv, just wondering whether the thinking is now that the Russians have either have been stalled or whatever word you want to use outside the city, does it seem that they are either satisfied or stuck attacking the outer areas of the city, and perhaps attacking into the city from that position, rather than trying to go into the city at some point?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I'm not sure I understood.

Q: Are they sort of stopped there? I think of it, you know, attack the city from -- from a (inaudible)...?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: From a different direction?

Q: Yeah.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, we haven't that. Again, Bob, what -- what we've seen is them approaching from the same avenues or axes as they have been trying to, from the north and northwest. And again, we still assess that they're 15 kilometers away from city center; basically, no change. Now also approaching it from the -- from the east. Again, those same sort of two lines that we've been talking about now for several days. We still hold them about 30 kilometers outside of city center. We still believe the Ukrainians are in control of that town called Brovary. No movement south of Chernihiv. Chernihiv is still what we consider isolated, but we're not seeing any new line axis of attack on Kyiv, other than the fact that they continue the long-range fires into Kyiv, trying to wear the city down. But in terms of ground movement, they're basically where they 've been.

Q: You don't conclude from that that they're sort of stuck, and they're -- a breakthrough is just not in the offing for them, or are you awaiting them to resupply and that sort of thing?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: It's unclear what they're going to do, what their next step is. It's hard for us to know with certainty. They're just basically where they were before. And again, the Ukrainians are putting a lot of effort into defending Kyiv, as you would expect them to do. And so it -- it's easy when we talk about them being stalled or being frustrated in that moving that -- I don't want to convey the error that this is some sort of static environment. There's a lot of fighting going on. The Ukrainians are -- they are the reason why they haven't been able to move forward and it's because they are very actively resisting any movement by the Russians. So it's not like a stall mate, where both sides are just kind of camped out. They are actively resisting any movement by the Russians.

But again, the Russians have advantages in terms of the long-range fires, and they are continuing to use that in Kyiv.

Q: OK, thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Amy? No questions?

Q: Sure. There's a report that a U.S. (inaudible), and I was just wondering if you had anything to comment on that.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I've seen the public reporting on it, but we're not in a position to confirm that, no.

Felicia?

Q: I've got two quick ones. First, earlier this week you said there were no indications Belarus is inserting troops to the (inaudible) region.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That's still the case.

Q: OK. Second, in the diplomatic discussions there's talks of the U.S. providing -- the U.S. and other countries providing security guarantees that they advanced.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: You mean in the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine?

Q: Yeah.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think all we've seen reported out are one-sided versions of what these discussions have been. I don't the Russians have put out, you know, what they want to interpret it. I don't think we've seen anything official from Ukraine on this. And so we want to be careful not to get ahead of that process and this is -- this is a negotiation between -- or these are talks between Russia and Ukraine that we're not a party to, so I just don't think we're going to start speculating about any proposal; certainly not going to speak to it until there's some sort of resolution by the two sides.

That good?

Q: I guess just as a follow-up, would the U.S. be willing to (inaudible)...?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I'm not going hypothesize on that. I mean, you've seen one side report what they -- how they want to characterize it. I think we need to let this process play out. We certainly want to give the Ukrainians a chance to characterize it, as well, when they -- if and when they feel it's appropriate. I'm not going to get ahead of that process and I'm not going to speculate about any involvement -- potential involvement by the United States.

OK, Barbara Starr? Barbara, are you there? OK, I'll move on. Tom Bowman?

Q: Can you hear Barbara now?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I can hear both of you -- I can hear both of you now. Go ahead, Barb.

Q: Two things quickly. When you say "1,000 missile launches," does that include the so-called duds or is that 1,000 missiles that you believe hit 1,000 targets?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We're counting launches, Barb, not necessarily how -- you know, BDA. So it’s over 1,000 that we've counted have been launched.

Q: Do you have a sense of the dud rate? In order words, either they crash shortly after or they don't leave the launch site? Do you have a sense of the dud -- dud rate?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, we do not. I'm sorry.

Q: And can I ask you very quickly -- do you have any kind of -- anything you can tell us about your sense of Russian troop morale at the moment?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We have anecdotal indications that Russian morale is flagging. Now, I want to be careful here, Barb -- we -don't -- you know, we're not polling all of the battalion tactical groups. We don't have insight into every unit in every location.

But we certainly have picked up anecdotal indications that morale is not -- that – it is not high in some units. And some of that is, we believe, a function of poor leadership, lack of information that the troops are getting about their mission and objectives, and -- I think disillusionment-- from being resisted as fiercely as they have been.

But again, I want to stress these are anecdotal accounts. While we're confident in what we're picking up, you know, I would not apply that to the entire force that Russia has put into Ukraine.

Q: Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah. OK, let's see. Bowman, I went to you too.

Q: OK. I'm going to follow up a little bit on the missiles. Are you still seeing roughly half coming from outside Ukraine in Russia and half in Ukraine? And also, do -- did you get any sense -- are they running out of missiles, running low on missiles, and -- and consequently, using more artillery dumb bombs?

And also, (inaudible), I wondered if you could follow up on the S-300s. Of course, the Slovak Defense Minister said he'd provide them if he could get a backfill. Secretary Austin talks a little bit about -- he was asked about Patriots, he said "we're still in discussions." Is that realistic, that the U.S. could do a backfill with Patriots? Could they get them there quickly? If you could just kind of address that, as well?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, I'm not going to go any further than the Secretary went on this today, when he talked at the press conference. I would just tell you, one, we are continuing to work with allies and partners on the possibility of helping Ukraine out with long range air defense systems and systems that we know that the Ukrainians know how to use and are trained on and, in fact, in some cases, are using now, because they have them in their inventory. 

We're having these discussions with allies and partners and they're bilateral discussions, right? I mean, it's us talking to individual nations who might be able to have these capabilities and to provide them.

And I think the Secretary put it well today when he said, you know, "look, we're going to have these discussions individually, and if there's capabilities that can be provided to offset some of these, you know, we're willing to have that discussion with each nation."

But he was not at all committing to any one offset capability, like Patriots. He simply said that this was -- these are discussions that we're willing to have, but no decisions have been made with any one nation about what is being called backfill. 

These are very much ongoing discussions that we're having and I'm not going to get ahead of that process.

On the missiles, I don't have the data that I once had and I don't know whether that's cause we don't produce that data anymore or I just don't have it with me, but I don't have the data that breaks down the points of origin for the missiles and where they're coming from. I will ask the staff to see if we still have that data. (omitted).

Q: OK. And just quickly, you know, on the S-300s or whatever systems, is it likely Ukraine will get these long range air defenses? Can you give us a sense of that?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We're working on it real hard and other nations are exploring their opportunities to provide long range air defense. What I can tell you, Tom, you're asking is it likely they're going to get them -- what I can tell you is the United States is going to stay hard at the task of seeing what we can do to get them long range air defense systems.

Q: OK. Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah. Courtney?

Q: Hey, just two quick ones. Is the airspace still contested? Do you have any change in the number of sorties on either side? Has there been any change on that?

And then -- and then secondly, on -- oh, sorry, go ahead.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We do still assess the airspace is contested. I don’t have a sortie rate for today. But we don't -- in general, we haven't seen any major changes by either Air Force, in terms of how much they're flying, but I just don't have the numbers today.

Q: And then on the naval activity, can you give us any details at all about - the -- the naval activity in the north Black Sea? Like, what -- what are you seeing?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I mean, we're seeing -- you know, we're seeing several surface ships -- about half a dozen or so surface ships off the coast, not far from Odesa. At least two of them are LSVs, amphibious ships, the rest are surface combatants. They are definitely at sea and not far from Odesa. But it's unclear right now what their -- we're not sure what they're planning to do. What they’re preparing to do. . 

So we've got frigates, a couple of amphib ships, one mine warfare ship, again, not exactly clear they're not -- but we're not seeing imminent activity that would indicate that they are about to launch an amphibious assault on Odesa. (omitted) one thing that they might do, could do is something ashore away from Odesa, not in the city proper, kind of like what they did in the Sea of Azov (omitted). But, again, we're seeing some ships at sea off the coast, intentions are not clear right now. 

Nick Shifrin? 

Q: Thanks, (omitted) Can we talk a little bit more about the long-range fires that the Russians seem to be employing as a greater tactic than any kind of maneuvering that they have been doing? Excuse me. Is it what you guys are seeing that there is a lack of maneuvering going around along in Kyiv and let's say Mariupol and outside Kharkiv, and more static use of artillery firing into cities? And how much of the new weapons can really address that with long-range fires for the Ukrainians to actually take artillery on with artillery? And how much of these weapons will instead help Ukrainians attack the supply lines, as we've seen in the past? 

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, you saw the list yourself, you know, it's not just Stingers. I mean, we're flowing more Javelins to them. And there are other anti-armor crew-served weapons that other nations are providing that the Ukrainians are using with great effect on Russian heavy vehicles, including their artillery. So that's part and parcel of the stuff that we're trying to send, including, you know, (omitted) these tactical UAVs can be useful against Russian vehicles and artillery. And so we're trying to get them the kinds of things that we think they could use in this fight, in particular, the fight against artillery bombardment and the long-range fires by the Russians. 

I would tell you that around Kyiv we have seen them move, we talked about this last night, they're moving -- they haven't moved any closer to the city but they have moved forces from their rear to join their advancing elements. Some of those forces, some of those capabilities are artillery, long-range artillery but artillery to be sure. So it appears that they continue to want to conduct a siege of Kyiv. That's what you want to use artillery for. And so, we haven't seen that manifest itself. We're just seeing them move them into place. 

But they clearly are trying, particularly around Kyiv, to improve their ability to hit the cities from afar with munitions. 

And again, if you go back to -- you go look at the list of things that we announced yesterday that we're going to be providing in this next package, there are systems in there that we believe the Ukrainians could use, could use with great effect against Russian long-range artillery.

Q: But there are also actual -- more long-range systems that Ukraine hasn't been given that -- that's more of an artillery-on-artillery fight rather than a kind of insurgent fight. Is there a discussion about those longer-range systems or am I just missing something?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I mean, I don't know if you're missing anything, I mean, we put out the list of things that we're putting in this package. It's all right there for you. 

And these are the things that we're in constant touch with the Ukrainians about -- things that we know that they need, things that we know that they're using, things that they know how to use. And that, I can't go really beyond the list of things that we're talking about sending over there.

Okay, Idrees.

Q: Hey, thanks. Two quick questions, firstly, you said no decisions on S-300 backfills. After the meeting today by the Secretary, would you say that there's been progress on that issue or are we still pretty much where we were?

And secondly on the thousand-plus missiles, do you have a sense of how many may have hit civilian targets, maybe not an exact number, but many of them/most of them? 

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't track BDA, guys. I can give you the launches, what we're seeing. But we don't -- we're not tracking BDA on them. So I can't give you how many are hitting what targets.

We have seen an increase of strikes on civilian infrastructure and civilian targets, that's true. But we can't enumerate that for you.

And I'm not going to go anywhere beyond what I've already said about the discussions in Slovakia today. I'm going to point you to what the Secretary said in his presser. 

We don't have anything specific to say about Slovakia air defense systems going to Ukraine or -- or what possible backfill there would be on that. Again, I think the secretary characterized it pretty well at the podium.

David Martin? Okay, nothing heard. Let's see, Tara Copp?

Q: Hello, thank you for doing this. (omitted). A couple of follow-ups, on Tom’s question on the thousand missiles, do you have any sense that Russia is running out of the long-range artillery that it has been firing within Ukraine? Obviously, it still -- it has a resupply outside.

Secondly, are there any discussions underway about airlift options to get food, water, supplies into Mariupol, given the siege that that city is under?

And then third, given the success that drones have had and some of the other long range systems, could you kind of talk about what systems Ukraine could operate that -- besides the S-300s that you all are assisting NATO partners possibly in supplying? Thanks a lot.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, I don't have an inventory list of what the Russian missile stockpile. We still assess that they have a significant amount of their combat power available to them. 

We have seen them rely more -- a little bit more than we saw in the early going on dumb bombs, if you will, non-precision guided. We think that it’s possible that they might be either conserving their precision-guided munitions or beginning to experience shortages. Again, it's not 100 percent clear, Tara, but we have seen them -- an increasing reliance on dumb weapons, if you will.

We have not -- you didn't ask this but I assume it's going to come up -- we haven't seen anything beyond what was said last night, that they are beginning to consider resupply from outside of Ukraine -- in other words, from elsewhere in the country or even from inventories that they might have overseas, but we haven't seen them actually pull on stocks from elsewhere, just that we've seen them clearly considering doing that.

I don't have anything for you on the humanitarian assistance. I mean, obviously, that's a question better put to USAID and the State Department, not the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense would not be involved in the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

And then, I completely forgot your third question.

Q: I was just -- the alternate systems within NATO, such as other drones or other air defense? 

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, I again, without -- I've been very careful and I'm going to stay careful on individual systems. I know everybody's very interested in this S-300 thing, I get that, but we are working with allies and partners to continue to provide security assistance to the Ukrainians on short range and tactical systems, as well as long range systems, to include long range air defense. 

And there's a lot that goes into that and some countries just have access to inventory that are more suitable for the Ukrainians than some of our systems, cause they're trained on them, they operate them, they know them, they're comfortable with them, and it's a whole suite of things.

And I've stayed away from naming individual systems and I think it's just better if we continue to do that, but we are in active conversations with countries about all these kinds of capabilities, to see what they can do to -- to continue to provide support to Ukraine. And I think that's as far as I'm going to go on that.

Let's see. Tom Squiteri?

Q: Hey, (omitted), thanks a lot. Happy St. Patrick's Day. Could you tell me the difference in tone between the NATO Ministers meeting this week and the one Secretary Austin attended in February, differences in tone and substance and perhaps vision? Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I mean, I think in both cases, the tone was obviously quite serious. Obviously, what's different now is that he has invaded, and it's been going on now for three weeks. And so I think he definitely sensed in the rooms, in the discussions that NATO continues to be very united here and very resolved on making sure that the eastern flank is able to be defended if need be. But I think the tone was, again, equally as serious as it was before. Again, the big difference was now, you know, we've got an invasion that's three weeks old, and I think everybody is even more determined, again, to make sure that, you know, that NATO can defend itself. I'm not sure if I'm answering the question properly, but there's no doubt coming out of this ministerial that NATO is still very united here.

Q: Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: .. still very concerned about this escalating, and talking very specifically now about, now that the battle groups have been approved, and so there was a lot of specific discussion about sort of how to actualize these policy decisions that NATO has made with respect to the battle groups.

Jeff Seldin, VOA?

Q: Hey, thanks very much for doing it. Really appreciate it. Quick question about Mariupol. There was a lot of focus on the theater that was sheltering civilians and children that was bombed by the Russians. But over the last day or so, Russia's been pushing back hard, saying it wasn't them, but it was the ultranationalists Ukrainian Azov Brigade. Based on visibility that you guys have into what's going on, is there anything that you can say about why that isn't the case? And -- is there any concerns that -- like, that any of these narratives, along, like, with the bioweapons stuff are starting to catch hold and could pose a problem down the line?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The narratives of what, Jeff?

Q: The Russian influence operations. They talking about -- just generally. They -- they've been putting out a lot with the bioweapons, but specifically now, they're pushing hard on the Ukrainians bombing the theater in Mariupol.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, I -- again, we can't confirm -- as I said (omitted), I mean, we couldn't confirm those accounts. We can't confirm them today. We have seen a continuation of the Russian attempts to blame stuff they're doing on the Ukrainians or to accuse the Ukrainians of doing stuff that they haven't done yet. We've seen that most particularly in the Donbas area where, as you know, there's been a kinetic flight now for going on eight years. But there's been a lot of that back-and-forth in the information space, particularly there. Not long ago, they accused the Ukrainians of a strike which we know the Russians actually took, for instance. And outside of Russia, we have not seen their information operations really find purchase. 

Now, in Russia, anecdotally, we see their narratives having more of an effect. But then again, they've shut down the independent media. The only thing available to most Russians now is state media, and so you would expect that those narratives would be more widely consumed, and even more widely believed. 

But outside of Russia there's little to no evidence that their information ops are working. In fact, we've seen quite the opposite. Ukrainians are doing a good job staying ahead of of the information ops. They're doing a good job communicating to their own people, not to mention the world, and using social media to great effect. So we just haven't seen the Russians have much success in the information ops thing. 

But again, mostly, you're seeing it mostly in that Donbas area, particularly, interestingly enough, in the Russian state media, if you look at the narratives coming out of there, I mean, they don't talk a lot about anything else in Ukraine. Most, or I shouldn’t say most, but a lot of their coverage is of the Donbas area and you know, the accusations of Ukrainian terrorism and that kind of thing. But you're not seeing a lot in Russian state-run media about things elsewhere in Ukraine and how they're going.

Jeff Schogol?

Q: Thank you. Regarding info ops, is it a national security threat when lawmakers like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Tulsi Gabbard parrot Russian talking points, and then they also make their way onto Tucker Carlson?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Was that a question, Jeff?

Q: Indeed. You had said the Russian information ops are not being very effective outside of Ukraine. In fact, several lawmakers and cable news hosts are parroting them every night. My question is when that becomes part of the national discourse, is that a national security threat?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, one of the things that makes us so special is freedom of speech, and it's hard to say that lawmakers expressing their opinions on national outlets, whether wrong or right in terms of accuracy, is a national security threat. I think that would be going too far. I really do. 

What I was referring to in Jeff's question was inside Ukraine, how much effect are they having? And they're not. They're just not. And I think you can see from the way Mr. Zelenskyy was received in Congress yesterday, you know, the standing ovation that he got from -- from both sides of the aisle indicate, you know, that -- that Russian propaganda is not penetrating to a fare-thee-well here in the United States at all.

Q: Huh.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The "huh" is interesting as a reaction to that.

Jack Detsch?

Q: Hey, (omitted). Thanks for doing this. I'm just curious to get -- you know, I know you gave sort of like a bullet-point assessment the other week about, you know, sort of why we're seeing what we're seeing on the battlefield and since we passed the three-week mark. I'm just curious for an update of, you know, sort of the why and how of what's happening. And if the Pentagon has an assessment of whether, you know, I know you said the Russians are considering more supplies, if this is becoming a larger sustainment challenge for the Russians if they keep at this at this pace?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We absolutely think that while they still have the majority of their combat available to them, I mean, just that they're talking about re-supply and re-sourcing tells you that they are beginning to get concerned about longevity here.

Again, I want to stress, Jack, that we haven't seen them move supplies from elsewhere in Russia to Ukraine, they still have a lot available to them. But that they are thinking about it just three weeks in certainly is noteworthy.

And when we talked, you know, back in week one, and we talked about how they had not planned properly for logistics and sustainment, and how they were struggling to do fueling and even feeding their troops. We have seen them try to overcome some of those early logistics and sustainment issues.

But they are still struggling to sustain their troops in the field. It's uneven to be sure but they are still struggling with that. Part of that we believe is because they didn't properly plan for -- to execute good logistics. But also because they ran into a stiffer resistance from the Ukrainians than they expected.

And they clearly weren't ready for the pushback that they have been getting from - the Ukrainians. So three weeks in, they're still able to maintain their force in the field. But not without difficulty. Three weeks in we are seeing them begin to think about re-supply from elsewhere, including manning support.

And that, you know, two weeks in we saw them put out a call for foreign fighters, which we noted was also an interesting development two weeks in. So you can't be predictive with how long this is going to go. But they clearly were not prepared for them to -- they clearly were not prepared for them to be in the position they are three weeks in.

Basically frozen around the country on multiple lines of axes, struggling to fuel themselves, and to feed their troops, and to supply them with arms and ammunition, and meeting a very determined Ukrainian resistance. I mean, again, if you just look at the map, I didn't go -- I didn't go around the map with you all.

But really -- there's been no progress in the last 24 hours. The only thing that I would say differently, and I didn't, you know, we didn't get into the geographies, remember I talked about that coming down from the North -- Eastern Ukraine towards that town of Izyum we actually do think that they are now in control of that town.

And that they want to push south down towards Donetsk and down towards Mariupol, and from Mariupol, they want to push North again to try to seal off the Donbas area. So the only progress really since last night is that we think that they have the town of Izyum, and that they want to continue to go south.

So it’s quite extraordinary, three week -- three weeks in that they are still having these same logistical and sustainment issues. And that they are considering additional ways to overcome those shortages from outside Ukraine. That's a long answer but I don't know if it got -- did that scratch your itch, Jack?

Q: That's -- that's helpful (omitted). I'm just wondering if you've also seen any changes on the map, any Ukrainian counter offenses that have been publicized by the Ukrainian military outside of Kyiv and elsewhere?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, I have no changes to the map to speak of but, again, we can't say that the Ukrainians have necessarily taken back territory that the Russians have occupied. But they haven't occupied that much.

They've got the town of Kherson, they still haven't taken Mykolaiv, they took Melitopol and Berdyans'k what a week or so ago. They haven't taken Mariupol. That they haven't made progress I think beyond really anything in the last, you know, few days.

I mean, I think that's a real testament to what the Ukrainians have been able to do. OK, we have time for just a couple more, and then we're going to have to call it (omitted). Pierre from Al-Arybia? Ok, nothing heard. Tony Capaccio ?

Q: Hi, (omitted), unmuted myself. A couple quickies. How soon will the 800 stingers and Javelins -- 2,000 Javelins, and 100 tactical view UAVs, how soon will they -- they be deployed to Ukraine? Have they been identified yet with an Army and Marine Corps inventories? And then I have a second follow-up.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't have an answer to those questions tonight, Tony. I mean, we're working this as fast as we can. I don't sourcing on those, and, frankly, I don't know if that's the kind of information we're going to be able to give out publicly. But I don't have answers to it.

Q: OK. A more tactical question, has -- have you noticed in the last week or so that Russia has engaged in a concerted suppression of enemy air defense campaign to take out as many Ukrainian air defense capabilities as possible? I asked you that last week and at that point, they had not.

Has that changed?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: It has not changed.

Q: Oh, is that a surprise given how important it is to get air superiority?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I mean you would -- I don't know if I'd say surprised, I mean, they didn't do it in the beginning in the opening days either. And I think, again, part of this is their own gaps and intelligence about where the Ukrainians had things.

And the Ukrainians ability to be very nimble with their air defenses. And I think I just for purposes of their OPSEC, I'll leave it at that.

Q: OK, thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yep. OK, last question, Mike Glenn?

Q: Yeah, thanks, (omitted) a couple questions. Can you confirm these reports of videos of Russian armor units leaving occupied Georgia? Are they heading to -- do you all think they're heading to Ukraine? And also, there is a -- the Ukrainian (inaudible) are reporting that an American was killed today in an artillery attack on Chernihiv.

Can you comment on that and if that's going to make any changes to the American operation -- to the operations there?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I haven't seen anything that we can verify in terms of movement from Georgia. So I can't verify those reports that was not in any of the material that I've seen today. And we cannot confirm these reports about a civilian being killed. 

Q: OK, you cannot, you said? 

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I cannot. No, no. Somebody asked that question early on.

Q: OK. 

Q: Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't hear that. 

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: It's no big deal. 

OK, thanks, guys, we're going to have to wrap it up there. Appreciate it. 

[Eds. Note: Due to the established on-background attribution rules for this briefing, identifying information of the Senior Defense Official has been omitted.]