Transcript

Senior Defense Official Holds a Background Briefing

March 31, 2022
Senior Defense Official

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Okay, good morning, everybody. We'll get started.

Not a whole lot of updates today from yesterday. Day 36, we continue to observe some Russian forces begin to continue to observe them repositioning away from Kyiv, particularly from the north and northwest of Kyiv. I don't have an update on quantity. We haven't observed that much of a difference over the last 24 hours, so I'd still roughly leave it at about 20 percent or so. There hasn't been and so it hasn't been sort of, you know, wholesale movement, at least not at this point.

I would say that again, despite the rhetoric of de-escalations, we're still observing artillery fire and airstrikes in and around Kyiv. They're still fighting to the north of Kyiv. As these forces begin to repositioning, the Ukrainians are moving against them. Still fighting around Chernihiv, and again, we believe that the Ukrainians still have lines of communication there in Chernihiv.

Obviously, and again, you guys know this – while Russian forces haven't made any major gains, there's fighting that continues in southern and eastern Ukraine, and that includes Kharkiv, Mariupol and Mykolaiv. We do continue to observe some Russian forces inside Mariupol, but obviously, the Ukrainians are fighting very, very tough inside the city.

The airspace remains contested; again, no changes to that. We've observed now no big, major muscle-movement changes in the missile launches; still observe more than 1,400 as of today. There's nothing new in the maritime environment to speak to.

On Mykolaiv, no really major change to the battlespace around Mykolaiv. We still assess that the Ukrainians are still fighting for Kherson and the degree to which the Russians are sort of positioned, it's sort of in between Kherson and Mykolaiv.

We have seen the Russians continue to increase their number of sorties, aircraft sorties, in last 24 hours, up over 300. And their strikes are focused on Kyiv, Chernihiv, Izyum, which we've talked about before, to the south of Kharkiv, and then that joint force operation area, basically, the Donbas.

Those are sort of the four areas where they're conducting most of their strikes. So again, for all the talk of de-escalation and moving away, Kyiv is still very much under threat from airstrikes.

And think I'll leave it at that. Again, not a whole lot of change from yesterday.

Bob?

Q: Thank you. I actually was a little bit unclear on your use of the 20 percent number. Are you referring to, in other words, 20 percent of what? Are you talking about forces that include not just those to the north and northwest of Kyiv, but also the Chernihiv area? And you also mentioned Sumy yesterday. I'm wondering what the ,you know, sort of the geographic area that is 20 percent of what, kind of thing?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, I was referring to the forces that they had arrayed against Kyiv specifically.

Q: Well, so do you consider that to include those in the northeast coming through Chernihiv?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, I was counting -- I was just talking about Kyiv, because that was the big, that was the big muscle movement. That's what the Russians announced, was they were going to leave Kyiv alone. You know, we've seen some minor movements in other, in other places to the…around the northern part of the country, but largely it's -- it's around Kyiv that we're starting to see this repositioning. And so the I said it was less than 20 percent, that it was a rough estimate. We don't have a perfect count, and what I was referring to was the force that Putin had arrayed against Kyiv. I wasn't counting other places because frankly, we just haven't seen that much coming out of other place.

Q: Okay. The other quick question on the same topic was when you made your introductory remarks, you said that the Ukrainians are moving against them. Now, are you referring to those forces that are repositioning, or just in general in the north of Kyiv?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, I mean, I guess it's a good question. It's both, but what I was referring to was -- was that they are attacking some of the repositioning forces, that they're moving against them as they begin to reposition. But they have consistently been going on the offensive around Kyiv even before the Russians made decisions to start to reposition, even when they were just in defensive positions and sort of stalled and not moving forward, the Ukrainians were working against them. So it's a little bit of both, but I was specifically referring to them pressing their attacks against some of these units that are repositioning.

Q: All right.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Okay, Howard Altman?

Q: Thank you. A couple of questions. The Ukrainians say they're concerned about Chernobyl's a number of things. One is the presence of a great deal of ammunition there that they are concerned about that could accidentally explode, the presence of rocket systems there that could be used to attack from there. And then if the Russians withdraw, their concern about a Russian missile strike on the facility. Does the Pentagon share any of those concerns? And can you confirm the presence of (continued ?) presence of Russian troops and those rocket systems there?

And then my second question is, can you talk about the -- the explosion at the Belgrade Russian facility - ammunition facility and whether that was a strike by Ukraine? Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: On the first question, you know, obviously, since the Russians moved into Chernobyl we said very clearly that we were concerned about their occupation of that defunct nuclear facility and our concerns over their lack of understanding or adherence to any kind of safety protocols. So that's a long-standing concern.

I don't have the level of detail you're getting from the Ukrainians on rockets being left there, or how many Russians are there. We have seen them begin to reposition away from Chernobyl, but I couldn't give you a nose count of how many are still there or what they might have left. So I can't help you on that.

And on the Belgorad strike, the farthest I'm willing to go on that is, you know, we -- we can't -- we can't confirm exactly what happened there, what kind of munition was used or -- or exactly from where it came. But we're not in a position to refute the possibility that it could have come from the Ukrainian side. We just don't have a whole lot more that we can say about it.

Tom Bowman?

Q: Yeah, any updates on Russian replacement troops heading in from Georgia, presumably to the Donbas?

And also, I was wondering if you can say anything more about Putin being misinformed or receiving little information from his generals?

Do you see him removing commanders, firing generals?

And also, it there a sense what the implications of this might be?

If he's not getting the right information and maybe he's suddenly realizing how bad things are, he could lash out even more. Is there any talk about that?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, on your first question I don't have any updates on reinforcements.

On the second question, we haven't seen any tangible outcomes, based on our assessment, that Mr. Putin is being misinformed or is perhaps uninformed. So you know, no dots we can connect there that correlate to decisions that the Russians have made, or he has made, on the battlefield -- other than -- I mean, again, it doesn't really answer the question, but, I mean, clearly, this repositioning that they're doing around Kyiv and -- and other places in the north, and this re-prioritization on the Donbas, clearly indicate that they know they have failed to take the capital city, that they know they have been under increased pressure elsewhere around the country. Because they are obviously making decisions to alter their goals and objectives.

Now, whether that itself is an outcome of Mr. Putin all of a sudden getting informed, we don't know. So I can't point to a specific decision point or a specific action that the Russians are taking and tell you that that's evidence that, you know, Mr. Putin is now more informed than he was before.

And as I said -- as the Pentagon briefer said yesterday, I mean, clearly, it's cause for concern if he's not being told the truth, if he's not -- if he's being misinformed, I think, the gist of your question, because you don't know how he's going to react when he -- when he does get fully informed. And you don't know how that's going to affect their legitimate, to the degree they could be legitimate, their negotiating tactics at the table.

So, yes, we're concerned about the -- the reports that he may not have the full information.

Now, again, how much of that has changed? You know, we can't measure that. We don't know. All we do know and all we can talk about is what we're seeing. And we're seeing them adjust. We're seeing them now focus on the Donbas. We're seeing them start to reposition troops. We continue to believe that this is a repositioning. We certainly haven't seen any indication that any of these troops are going back home or that they're being taken away from the fight forever.

What we continue to believe is that these troops will be refit and put back into Ukraine in some place and in some fashion to continue the fight along what we believe their new objectives are, which is largely in the east.

Q: And, also, you talked about morale in the past, morale not being good among Russian forces. Any detail, any indications of that?

Is it getting worse? Are soldiers disobeying orders?

There was a report of Russian troops, you know, running over their commander.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, I can't confirm any of those anecdotes. I know that there was another report out there that they've shot down by accident their own aircraft, and we can't confirm that.

I would just tell you that we have continued to see unit cohesion issues, command-and-control problems, problems of faulty leadership. And certainly we have continued to see, again, anecdotal evidence of poor morale and poor performance by troops on the battlefield.

But, as I've said before, it's anecdotal. We can't say with certainty that it's uniformly across all the force that they have in Ukraine. But I just want to go back to some of the core ideas here. One, this is an operation, an armed conflict on the scale that the Russians have not attempted in a very, very, very long time, on multiple lines of axis, with poor coordination between elements in subordinate commands, poor planning for logistics and sustainment, anecdotal evidence that they haven't even been honest with their troops about what it is that they were about to do, and largely depending on conscripts to fight it -- so not career soldiers.

Also, you know, it's a military that doesn't have a noncommissioned officer corps the way that the West does. And so we are not seeing a lot of small-unit leadership or even any initiative at lower levels. It's a very top-down driven military. And we think that some of the problems they have had directly result from that leadership organizational structure.

Q: All right, thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Tom Squitieri?

Yeah, Tom Squitieri?

Q: Thanks. Good morning. In the lead-up to the invasion and since, the information that the Pentagon has provided has really tracked well with those from other sources, the U.K. and another analysts, except in one area.

Without getting into intelligence matters, why do you think there's a dissonance between reports that others have of Russian troops leaving other parts of Russia -- in other words, a (inaudible) coming towards Ukraine, and the Pentagon's not saying the same thing?

Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: All I would tell you is that we are doing the best we can to share with you what we can share with you. There are things that we can't share with you that we believe we know, but we're not going to share it with you because we have to be sensitive about the way we know it.

So all I can tell you, in good faith, is that we're providing as much context as we can, with that caveat and the other caveat being that we can't possibly know everything that's going on at every moment inside Ukraine because we're not there.

I've made no bones about the fact that in the past, that there's going to be gaps in our assessments, gaps in our knowledge, that we might see something one day and then the next day, we'll see it a different way because we'll just simply know more.

So all I can tell you is we're doing the best we can to provide what we're comfortable providing. I'm comfortable that what I decide to share with you, I'm comfortable with it -- with it coming out on behalf of a Senior Defense Official, and if I can't get myself there, if I can't be comfortable with it, then we're not sharing it.

Heather from USNI?

Q: Thank you so much. I was wondering if you have any comments about the maritime space from the idea of merchants in the port potentially being stuck on their ships or not being able to get out? Any updates on any ships that have been -- merchant ships that have been damaged? And then if you have any comments on how this is affecting the global food sources?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't have any updates on commercial shipping. We know that the -- that the Russians have continued to blockade Odesa. So obviously it's having -- it's having an economic impact there, certainly inside Ukraine, no question about it.

But what that represents on the global scale, I just don't know, Heather, and I don't have the data on food and what it's doing to the food market. That's just not something we would be tracking here at the Department of Defense.

David Martin?

Q: The two place names that have been associated with the Russian pullback from around Kyiv have been Hostomel and Chernobyl. Do you have any other place names for that?

And since Donbas seems to be now the priority theater, could you give us an update on what progress the -- the Russians have made there since the start of the war? I mean, you -- you always talk about trying to link up that line between Kharkiv and Mariupol, but just on the line of contact there, have -- have the Russians advanced past the original line of contact? How much farther are they into the Donbas region?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: So no other specific geographic locations to talk about in terms of -- of drawing down. It is largely from Chernobyl and from the north and northwest of Kyiv. I would tell you that we believe that they have very likely abandoned Hostomel airfield, also known as Antonov too, but other than that, those are the two place names that we're mostly focused on right now.

And as for your other question, they have not geographically made much progress in the east. I mean, they are south of Izyum. We talked about that a few days ago, that they got to be 10 to 15 kilometers south of -- actually southeast of Izyum. They're sort of moving down a highway that travels from northwest to southeast into the Donbas region, and that seems to be the line of advance that they're trying to pursue but they have been stymied by Ukrainians and haven't really made much more progress to this coming -- coming south.

Obviously, we believe one of the reasons that they want Mariupol so badly is so that they can move to the north, coming out of Mariupol, and obviously Mariupol is still very much contested. So not a whole lot of progress by the Russians to come up from the south.

We do assess that, as I said before, that the Joint Forces operations area -- basically the area between Donetsk and Luhansk and and then further east, to the rest of the -- the Donbas area -- that area still remains high for kinetic activity, it remains a focus area of their airstrikes.

I talked about Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Mariupol, and then of course the JFO. Those are the areas where they're really doing the most air activity. So they have poured more effort into that, but as for actual progress, pinching it off or sealing it off and fixing Ukrainian Armed Forces, they have been frustrated and not -- not successful.

Now, again, David, we'll see what happens here going forward, as they begin to -- to get these repositioned troops out of the Kyiv area and out of other areas. What they do in terms of refit, resupply, and then reentry into Ukraine, that remains to be seen, whether that will make a bigger difference in their ability to make the Donbas the priority that they see it is going to be.

That they have said that and that we are seeing indications that they are beginning to actualize that priority, to actually put effort into it, could mean that this could be a lengthy, more drawn out conflict, that they are now going to sort of sharpen their focus on one geographic area, not so much in other places. It could be a harbinger of a longer, more prolonged conflict here, as you know, the Russians try to gain some leverage, gain some progress, and perhaps gain some chips at the bargaining table.

Q: So if they're essentially reducing their battlefield objectives to the east of -- to eastern Ukraine, why would that augur a long, drawn out conflict?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Because it's been a conflict that -- it's been fought over now for eight years. The Ukrainians know the territory very, very well, they have a lot of forces still there, and they're absolutely fighting very hard for that area, as they have over the last eight years. It's been a hot war there for eight years.

So just because they're going to prioritize it and put more force there or more energy there doesn't mean it's going to be easy for them.

Sylvie from AFP?

Q: Hello, I wanted to ask a question about Kherson. You said a few days ago that the Ukrainians were launching a counter-offensive there. Do you see any progress for the Ukrainians? And is the city still in control of the Russians?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We assess that there's still fighting over Kherson that we consider, we know the Russians are in the city, but we aren't prepared to call it for one side or the other at this point. I mean, it had been in Russian control, but the Ukrainians are, you know, are attempting to retake Kherson, so it's still fought over.

Q: Okay.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Fadi?

Q: I have two questions. Just to understand the type of effort the Russians are putting into the Donbas area, and in light of this repositioning away from Kyiv, in terms of -- and I understand that you've been refraining from giving us specific numbers of troops around certain areas, but how what's the percentage of Russian forces that are dedicated in the Donbas area, to be able to understand whether the additional forces potentially may make any difference?

And then on the number that you mentioned of the air sorties from the Russian forces, you said over 300 in the last 24 hours. In comparison to previous days, is this a significant increase? And were the Ukrainians able to challenge these sorties or keep contesting the Russian airpower? Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The air sorties have -- for the Russians have -- kind of varied over the last few days, Fadi, to be honest with you. What we're seeing today is roughly consistent with what we saw yesterday. But you know, two, three days ago it was reduced. It was less than -- it was about half of what we're seeing now. So it -- you know, it's going to change from day to day. We'll do the best we can to tell you what we're seeing, but I'm going to refrain from trying to, you know, explain it or justify it. I can't do that. But it's roughly in keeping with what we saw yesterday, and what we saw yesterday was -- was significantly more than what we saw the day before. Late last week, they were up between, you know, depending on the day, between 250 and 340 sorties a day. So I mean, it varies. It varies on what they decide that they're going to -- what missions they're going to fly and how many planes they want to put in the air. Again, I don't have perfect insight into the Russians' air operations plan.

I do not have a firm number of troops that they have in the Donbas. As you know, we have scrupulously avoided trying to get into getting -- you know, just describing in great detail their order of battle. All I can tell you is that we believe that they are going -- that they are interested in reinforcing what they have there. Now, how they do that, how many, when, we don't have perfect visibility. What I can only go so far as what we know, and what we know and I believe was put out yesterday is we know Wagner is going to -- is trying to -- to reinforce the -- their presence in the Donbas. Again, this is not new for them. They have long had private military contractors in the Donbas, so it's not shocking to us that they would consider adding to that capability. But we haven't in any significant number of, you know, them moving forces there. We're going to -- we'll watch. We'll see what they do here with this repositioning, and where these folks go. We just don't know that yet. We're kind of watching it in real time, same as you.

Idrees?

Q: Hey, if I could just go back to Tom's question about the declassified intel, I was -- I was a bit confused when it came out, because it is sort of hard for me to believe that Putin wouldn't be aware of the difficulties in Ukraine, given that they've publicly announced a shift. They've acknowledged some casualties. I mean, it's probably a stupid question, but can't he just go on the Internet and, like, Google "Kyiv" and see everything pretty much, okay, easily? Why doesn't he, like -- you know, his advisors to be telling him stuff when he could easily see it? And how do we know this just sort -- isn't an attempt to explain his stubbornness and his approach to the war so far?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Idrees, I can't speak to Mr. Putin's Internet habits or what -- what he decides to go look for or not look for. What I would tell you is that our assessment is that the planning for this war was done with a very small circle of people, and that Mr. Putin's advisors do not count many, and I, you know -- our assessment is that they have not been completely honest with him about -- about how it's going. I can't go into any more detail than that because it is an intelligence assessment, but that's what we believe, that he's kept a very close circle around him. It’s not a very inclusive leadership style, and that that necessarily winnows down the channels of communication that a leader has available to him. I can't account for the fact that the people advising him have -- have chosen to obstruct certain information or omit certain information. All we can say is we don't believe that he has been getting the full picture.

Tara Copp?

Q: Good morning. My cat is not on this call this time.

I wanted to get back to the intelligence. So the -- the reports of the Russians, you know, accidentally shooting down their own aircraft, they weren't really reports; it was the head of British spy services saying that. And so I just wanted to ask you about intelligence sharing between, you know -- obviously, U.K.'s one of the closest allies for intelligent sharing. Is there any disconnect going on there, or is it just that the Pentagon has not fully assessed that intelligence from the British?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I mean, obviously, we have a -- have a very close intelligence-sharing relationship with the Brits, as you know. I will share with you what we're comfortable sharing. Just because I'm not saying it doesn't mean we don't know it or have some visibility on something. I'm only going to share with you what I'm comfortable sharing with you, and I will go no further. But you shouldn't read into that that we don't have a great relationship with the Brits, or that we have an exceptionally-close intelligence-sharing process with them. And I'm not going to speak for what another nation decides to speak to. I can only speak to what the Department of Defense is willing to speak to, and that's as far as I'm going to go on any given day. So I think that's the best I can do to answer that question.

Q: Okay, thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yup.

Nancy?

Q: Thank you. I'd like to follow up on something we discussed last week. Could you tell us your latest assessment on the Russian use of its navy in the Sea of Azov? Are their ships, the ones that are out to sea, able to pose a threat to places like the Donbas, or do you believe that Russia is currently repositioning its naval force much as it's done around the capital, to eventually pose a threat to the Donbas? Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: So we have not seen a lot of naval activity in the Black Sea or Sea of Azov in the last few days. Right now, we assess that they've got three ships in the Sea of Azov. We assess that they're surface combatants. We know that they have some landing ships, as well, not in the Sea of Azov right now but in the Black Sea, as well as other surface combatants.

So, I mean, they're active in the region, they're active in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, but we just haven't seen anything that points to an imminent amphibious landing or another kind of assault. We haven't even seen them make fresh attempts to resupply, as they were doing when they lost that one LST in Berdyans'k. But again, that's present tense, we'll see where it goes.

As for threats to the Donbas, I mean, geography would simply tell you that they could absolutely use surface combatants with cruise missile capability to threaten the Donbas.

We do assess that they have launched cruise missiles from ships at sea, in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, into Ukraine -- I couldn't tell you where they went, I don't have that level of detail -- but certainly, that would be an option available to them if they want to -- you know, to increase firepower in the Donbas, and again, they've done it before, they have that capability. I just can't point to a given missile launch and tell you well, you know, here's where it landed. We just don't have that level of information.

Q: Just so I'm clear, when you talked about missile launches from the sea, that is since they've had to move those ships out after the attack in Berdyans'k. Is that correct?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: They have -- they have consistently -- throughout this conflict, Nancy, they have consistently launched missiles from ships at sea. It's been sporadic at times, more intense at others, but we know that they -- that they have launched missiles from -- from ships at sea. That’s not a new development and I couldn't tell you that, you know, since they lost the LST in Berdyans'k, you know, how many they've launched or even if they have. I just don't have that level of detail. But it has been consistent throughout the beginning of this invasion that they have used ships at sea to launch missiles into Ukraine.

Q: Okay, thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah. Alex Horton?

Q: Hey, I just wanted to echo my disappointment that we don't have a readout of Putin's browser history, but maybe that's a good thing.

I wanted to go back to Mariupol. And, you know, at the top of the call, when you rattled off the few places that, you know, were the focus of airstrikes, Mariupol wasn't on that list, and then a few minutes ago, you added it. So I just wanted to clarify if you would say that Mariupol is on that list of where the Russians are prioritizing airstrikes?

And second, if you've been able to assess if the humanitarian ceasefire that's there -- has that had any effect of Russian shelling or airstrikes?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I'm sorry, can you say the second one again?

Q: Yeah. I mean, since the humanitarian ceasefire -- it seems like it was agreed on by both sides in Mariupol, have you been able to assess any different or lessening of airstrikes or -- or shelling or has that continued as it has been?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I left Mariupol off as an oversight but I don't have, you know, again, this is where we get into, you know, actual time sensitivity here. I don't have an update on the degree to which a ceasefire is being applied in Mariupol.

What I try to give you is what we've seen, you know, in the last 24 hours, since we last talked, and we have continued to see Mariupol come under airstrikes. So I didn't mean anything by leaving them off, just an honest mistake there.

But as for what the ceasefire has done or will do, I just -- I don't have an update on it.

Q: Okay, thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah. Mike Glenn?

Q: Thanks -- thank you. I just want to quickly -- so I was wondering if you can comment on these concerns from legislators up on the Hill, Democrat and Republican, who have raised questions about the pace of the supply effort to the Ukrainians? They say it's seems to be a little slow. I'm sure you saw this --

(CROSSTALK)

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: There's nothing slow about the pace. I mean, we -- we -- we sent $350 million of security assistance to Ukraine in not this last package but the one before that, in about three weeks, which is unprecedented, never been done that fast. And of the $800 million that the President has just recently signed out, that's already on its way.

As I've said, there's already been four to five flights -- shipments of that material and -- hang on a second, I'm looking at a chart right now -- let's see. So just to give you an example -- so that $800 million, it was signed out on the 16th of March, the execute order was released the very next day, and the first delivery arrived on the 20th, so four days after the President signed it. That's fast for any measure by which we -- by which we are doing that.

It's the same basic timeframe for the $200 million that the President signed out at -- right before that, signed out -- signed on the 12th, first delivery on the 18th. So very consistent with that. And we expect that we'll be able to finish the delivery of the $800 million by the middle of April, so roughly two weeks from now.

I don't know -- I don't know how anyone can describe that as anything other than expeditious and aggressive.

Ryo?

Q: Thank you. I want to ask you about China. Press Secretary Kirby said yesterday there is no indication of China's military support to Russia. Do you see any indications that China has decided not to provide military support to Russia?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I haven't seen any indications at this point that there's been Chinese military assistance provided to Russia with respect to this invasion.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Carla Babb, VOA?

Last question.

Q: Hey, thank you so much for doing this. I just, first of all, wanted to follow up, when you said that there have been an increase in sorties. You said there have been over 300 Russian sorties.

Is there -- are there any indications that you guys have gotten as to why there's an increase of these sorties recently?

Is it just to help provide cover for people as they're moving, or is it just an increase of offensives -- if you can give us a context there?

And then my -- my last question is, what's the level of concern that Russia might start using tactical nuclear weapons?

Is that a red line that you guys consider -- or do you consider that to be a red line?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We haven't seen any activity by the Russians that would change our assessment or our strategic deterrent posture, and no indications at this time that they're preparing to use those kinds of weapons.

As for the sorties, again, Carla, I said this earlier, I can't speak to the Russian air plan. I can't tell you where they're all taking off from, how long they're flying, what munitions they're carrying with them, and where the munitions are being dropped.

We just don't have that level of granularity. I'm just trying to give you what I know I can give you. And what I can tell you is, over the last 24 hours, they've flown about 300 sorties. That is not inconsistent with yesterday, and it's not inconsistent with the several days late last week.

It does change from day to day. And there's going to be some days, quite frankly, folks, where I'm not going to have the number for you. I mean, our knowledge stream changes day to day. So if it's something I'm comfortable giving you, I'll give it to you. But -- but, as I said earlier, if I'm not comfortable, I'm not going to provide it. Because I don't want to be wrong. And I'll just do the best I can, but the only -- the only thing that I would say in answer to your question is, they have -- they have not stopped air strikes.

Even as they claim they're relocating and destabilize -- or, you know, de-escalating, they continue to hit Kyiv with air strikes. They continue to hit Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Mariupol -- and, of course, in that joint forces operations area.

So, I mean -- and you don't need me to tell you that. You guys can see it for yourselves in the imagery coming out of Ukraine and from many of your colleagues who are on the ground. Air strikes continue.

And so, as I said earlier, the other day, the talk of de-escalation, and "We're pulling back because we want to give some oxygen to the talks," that's very nice rhetoric. But it doesn't mean that Kyiv is any under any less threat from the air. It continues to get pounded.

So we think that part of these, part of these sorties are designed to continue the pressure on Ukraine from the air, even as they depressurize, you know, the ground presence around Kyiv. They're still putting pressure on the Ukrainians from -- from the air.

It also could be of a piece of their desire to put more priority on the Donbas area. Because we do continue to see a lot of kinetic activity there, both from the ground and from the air. But as to exactly the breakdown of how many sorties are going to what places are where they're dropping, again, I just don't have that level of fidelity.

Okay, thanks, everybody. That does it for today.