Transcript

Senior Defense Official Holds a Background Briefing

May 9, 2022
Senior Defense Official

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Okay, good morning, everybody. So here we are, day 75. There's actually -- I know it's been a while since we did this -- but there's really not a whole heck of a lot of change to speak to today.

We continue to see Russia -- Russian artillery bombardment -- and offensive ground operations south of Izyum, more in the direction of Lyman -- L-Y-M-A-N -- which is to the southeast of Izyum there, moving in that direction.

And we believe their intent is, as we talked about last week, is to -- is to assault Slovyansk -- which, if you look at a map, is just about due east of Lyman and also try to take over the various lines of communication in that northern area of the Donbas but they've made, again, very limited progress on that line of access over the last few days, like single-digit kilometer kind of progress, cause the Ukrainians keep keep pushing them back and keep fighting them back. So not a lot of progress at all.

The same could be said in the south. We talked last week about the majority of the battalion tactical groups that were dedicated to Mariupol moving north and sort of stopping just south of a town called -- and I don't mean to be disrespectful, I'll do my best to pronounce this right -- but Velyka Novosilka.

And we still assess that they are arrayed south of that town, they have not moved up that. So there's been virtually no progress in the south. And we still estimate that about the equivalent of -- and I want to be careful -- it's not two BTGs specifically, but it’s about the equivalent of two BTGs are still dedicated to the Mariupol area.

And Mariupol continues to come under airstrikes. They are still launching weapons into Mariupol. Other airstrikes, long-range missile fires, we've seen in and around Odesa and in the -- unsurprisingly, in the northern part of the Donbas area, which, I guess, is, again, perfectly consistent with what we've seen in the last few days. So honestly, there's just not a lot of dramatic change to speak to on the ground.

In the air, there's -- Russians sortie count over the last 24 hours came in just under about 300, but again, it varies from day to day, and usually -- like, we've been talking about this -- anywhere from 200 to 300 on any given day, based on what they're trying to get done. So certainly within that range of what we've been seeing.

And, you know, not a whole heck of a lot to talk about in the maritime environment. I think you all saw video footage and Ukrainian comments about Snake Island and some strikes that they conducted there. We're still trying to process that and figure out everything that they hit and what was all behind that, and I don't have a whole lot of detail on that. We think there was at least three targets hit from airstrikes on Snake Island, but as for overarching effect, it's -- I think we're still trying to figure figure all that out.

And no changes in the maritime -- elsewhere in the maritime environment, in terms of the Black Sea. The Black Sea Fleet, we still assess, is keeping their distance from the northern coast. In fact, we would assess that the majority of their LSTs are operating actually from mainland Russia, in and out of mainland Russia ports. So again, no major changes in that regard.

Around Kharkiv, still assess Russian and Ukrainian contact there, with the Ukrainians continuing to push Russian forces further to the east, but not a whole lot difference -- I think less than 45 kilometers now they may’ve been able to push the Russians to the east of Kharkiv. That's not all that different than when we talked about last week but it's a little bit of progress and they keep pushing them out.

And let's see. On the training side -- I'm sorry, the -- before I get to training, let me just talk about sort of where we are on the major pieces heading over there. So I can report that almost all the 90 howitzers are in Ukraine, more than 85 of them.

And as for the rounds, again, if you add the 144 to the -- from PDA-8, 144,000, and the 40,000 from PDA-7, which gets you to 184,000 total, of that 184,000 total, more than 110,000 rounds are in Ukraine. So more than 60 percent and more flows in just about every day.

Let's see. And then from other seven -- in the last 24, there's been 13 deliveries from seven different nations have arrived at various trans-shipment sites throughout the region. So we're continuing to help coordinate lots of deliveries from lots of different countries.

And, you know, I won't list the countries and what they've been giving but it's everything from additional 155 rounds to 122 millimeter rounds to shotguns, spare parts, Humvees, generators, even a couple of additional howitzers, M777s. So lots of different stuff coming from lots of different countries, and again, we're trying to help coordinate the delivery of that.

On the training front, more than 310 Ukrainian soldiers now have completed M777 training. There's another 50-plus that are currently going through yet another course. Let's see. We've also started a two-week M777 maintainer course and we expect that the first class will begin training today -- that's the plan. So that's a new development, to help them with maintenance on the howitzers, now that they're getting so many in the country.

On the Q-64 mobile air defense radar, 15 Ukrainian soldiers have completed that training and there's a second class will begin training today.

Let's see. On the M113, 60 Ukrainian military have completed that course and another 45-plus will complete the second course on the M113 team today. So lots of the graduations today.

On the yet Phoenix Ghost, we have completed the training of about 20 Ukrainian soldiers. That was a week-long course, you might recall, and that has been complete. And on the Phoenix Ghost we -- you know, still more than 20 of them are in the country. And we're still working to get the rest of them in there.

And I guess that's pretty much it for today. So we will start with questions. Go ahead, Lita.

Q: Hi, thanks. A couple of real quick things. Do you have the total number of sorties -- you mentioned over the last 24 hours, do you have the total? And anything new on the efforts to strike that second ship that you were not too aware of on Friday? And then I have a follow-up.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Okay. Wait, did you -- your first question was on these Russia sorties?

Q: The total number of Russian sorties, the total since the start?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes, I think I'd just leave it at just under 300 is where I'd put it.

Q: Since -- that's over the last 24 hours though, right?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That's right.

Q: I mean missile strikes. Sorry -- I'm sorry.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Missile strikes, yes, I do not have a total today, but we'll have to take that question and get back to you.


SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Let me stop you there. So I don't have a total today because it is likely that we're not keeping track of that anymore. Now I'm trying to figure out why that is and whether we can continue to get that piece of data for you. But as the war moves and changes, some of the metrics are going to change too. So that's just one metric I don't have today, but I think we can get it for today and then I just have to take a look and see if that's something we can continue to produce. But I think they're beginning to change some of the metrics of things that they are counting.

Q: Okay. And then, on the ship, the second ship, what's -- there was this buzz that the --

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes. We have no information. We have no indication and no information to corroborate reports that another ship was attacked.

Q: And then just a broad one. There has been reports, I think you sort of mentioned on a number of strikes in and around Odesa, do you see any shift in Russian intentions to move more aggressively towards Odesa? And do you see any shift of Russians moving out of the Donbas maybe to reset, refit at all over the last 24 hours?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes, on Odesa, the airstrike activity has not been insignificant there. And we're not seeing any move -- or actually any ability for the Russians to move on Odesa. I mean, there was fighting between Kherson and Mykolaiv over the last 24, they have not taken Mykolaiv. And so there is no ground threat to Odesa right now. And there is no real maritime threat to Odesa either because, as I said earlier, the Black Sea Fleet is staying well off the coast. So there are some strikes there.

We think, again, we don't have perfect visibility, but we think part of the reason they're striking there is to continue to sort of -- by posing a threat to Odesa, maybe pinning down Ukrainian forces in or around that area so that they are not available or they won't feel like they should be made available to move to the Donbas to support other Ukrainian forces there.

That’s an assumption. We don't know that for sure. But the airstrikes that are in and around Odesa are not, we don't believe, indicative of some imminent move on Odesa either from the sea or from the ground. In fact, they don't have the ability to do that right now.

And I totally forgot your other one.

Q: There appears to be some movement of troops in the Donbas and I'm wondering if you're seeing any movement by Russia to bring some of their units back into Russia to refit and reset at all; those that have been operating in the Donbas region.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Not really, Lita.

I mean, as a matter of fact, we now assess that there's about 97 operational BTGs in Ukraine. And I think the last time that we talked it was like 93. So they've actually moved in more.

And there's -- look, there's give and take every day. Sometimes they'll move, you know, one or two out and then three or four in. I'm just giving you the net numbers.

But it is not unusual for them to move a BTG or two out of the Donbas back into Russia for refit or resupply and then move them back in. I mean, that's normal. That's what you would expect them to do.

But in the aggregate, since the last time we talked they've added about five BTGs to Ukraine and all of those BTGs are either in the east or in the south.

Okay, Pierre.

Q: Thank you.

Can you describe a little bit more information available the nature of the fight that's happening in the Donbas? What we saw probably in the area of the capital Kyiv is like more close contact. Short distance, is it different in the Donbas?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: It's a different terrain; they’re applying I think some different tactics. I don't think comparing it to Kyiv is really a fair comparison since Kyiv is a, you know, the capital city. It's in a different part of the country, more forested, more hilly.

And much more urban, the Donbas is flat, it's open, it's a lot of farmland. And it's a lot of small towns and villages and what we're seeing is they are trying to do what we -- in the U.S. military -- refer to it as combined arms maneuver.

Meaning that you're moving all of your capabilities in some sort of orchestrated, organized fashion. And they're trying to do that but they have not been very successful. They're -- they're falling a lot back on their doctrine, which is to shell an area you want to get to, soak it with artillery to soften up the defense and then move your ground forces in only when you think it's -- they're able to do that.

And the problem for them is that the Ukrainians also have artillery and long-range fires and they now have a lot more of them. And they're proving to be resistant to that final approach by the Russians.

They're hitting back with their artillery, and they are quite good at operational maneuver in this part of the country. Since both nations have been fighting, again, over this for eight years. The Ukrainians know the terrain very, very well. So there's been a lot of back and forth on these small towns and villages.

And the Russians just have not been able to make any significant progress at all. It is not helped by the fact that -- so -- not helped by the fact that they haven't been able to integrate their fires with their maneuver. It's helped by the weather.

It's very muddy there so they are pretty much restricted to paved roads. Number two, or sorry, number three, they haven't fixed all their logistics and sustainment issues, we still see them struggling to resupply their troops. And I am cautious to get out ahead of that.

So they're moving slowly because they don't want to make the same mistakes that they made in Kyiv. And then lastly, just command and control and unit cohesion. We still see anecdotal reports of poor morale of troops. And the officers refusing to obey orders, and move.

And not really sound command and control from a leadership perspective. So that's the best I can do in answering that question.

Q: Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yep.

Jeff Schogol?

Q: Thank you.

Can the Defense Department say that as states ban contraception how will it make sure that service members continue to get the medicine that they need?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Hey, Jeff, I'll tell you what, why don't we shelve that question for later. [omitted] This backgrounder is really dedicated to Ukraine. [omitted] That's not what [we were] prepping for this morning. So we're trying to keep this on topic.

Q: Okay, thank you very much.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah. Jack Detsch, Foreign Policy?

Q: Hey.

I'm just wondering how you would characterize what's gone on in the counteroffensive near Kharkiv. Is it similar to what you were describing just with the Donbas that the Ukrainians are more capable at maneuvering here, and the Russians haven't fixed those logistics issues?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, so, a couple of things.

It's a different situation in Kharkiv. First of all, Kharkiv never fell to the Russians. The Ukrainians have maintained it throughout and they still are in control of Kharkiv. The Russians tried to encircle it.

Right now, if you think of it like a horseshoe, they're kind of not a complete horseshoe around it but maybe a partial horseshoe around from the -- from the north. If you're looking at a curve you'd say from the northwest of Kharkiv sort of around the north and to the east of Kharkiv is kind of where they are. And that's where a lot of the kinetic activity is.

But the Ukrainians have mounted a very stiff resistance there. They have good capability, and they're using it. As a matter of fact, that horseshoe's kind of misshapen now because they've actually engaged the Russians in the field to the east of the city, and have pushed them further away from Kharkiv.

Kharkiv's important because of where it sits. It's technically not really in the Donbas, but it's right up there of what we would consider the boundaries of the north Donbas. And it's a big industrial city, lots of capacity, and economic influence there, Kharkiv.

And as we talked about so many times over the last couple of months, that if you want to take the east -- if you want to take the Donbas in the east of Ukraine, you know, if you draw a line from Kharkiv all the way down to Mariupol, well, that gives you that line of access.

And so, we believe that the Russians still are trying to fight for Kharkiv. But they just haven't had much success. 

It's a different kind of fighting, though, Jack. We’re not seeing the same kind of swapping back and forth like we're seeing in the Donbas, or these little villages. Kharkiv is getting hit with artillery but also by airstrikes, and again, we've never assessed that the Ukrainians had given up control of it.

Q: Thanks.

And then secondly just real fast on the May 9 plans, I know obviously Putin didn't announce a major mobilization, but has the DOD seen any signs that Russia could mobilizes more forces? Obviously the Wagner Group making a cry for more forces over the weekend.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No. We don't have any major reinforcements that we've seen or that we have indications of. Regardless of May 9 we just haven't seen that.

Okay, Heather?

Q: Thank you so much.

I know that you mentioned there's not a lot of maritime updates, but I was wondering if the Defense Department can confirm or deny any strikes that have happened on any Russian ships or any Ukrainian ships over the weekend or Friday?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I have not seen any over the weekend.

Luis Martinez?

Q: Hi. Good morning.

Quick question about the characterization. How would you characterize the overall Russian effort in the Donbas region right now? Is it stalled? I mean, I know we talk about it being dynamic with both sides moving and taking over towns, but overall in a sense has the Russian push there been successful? How would we characterize it?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I would not characterize it as successful, not at all. They really haven't achieved any significant progress on the lines of access that they had anticipated achieving in the Northern Donbas. They are being resisted very effectively by the Ukrainians, so again, I'd go back to the word I used last week. Incremental and somewhat anemic is how I would describe it so far.

Carla Babb?

Q: Hey, thanks for doing this.

I know that Kirby had said earlier that we would wait until the Lend-Lease Act was signed, but since we have on background can you, Senior Defense Official, kind of explain to us how that's going to change things once the Lend-Lease Act actually goes into law later today?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We're not going to get ahead of the president here, but I think any support from Congress that allows us to better support Ukraine is welcome, and I'll leave it at that.

Courtney?

Q: Just one quick one. On the officers refusing to obey orders that you mentioned earlier, do you -- can you give any more specifics on that? Like do you have any locations or anything specific about that?

Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I mean, these are anecdotal reports. These are typically like, you know, midgrade officers, you know, at various levels, even up to the battalion level where they're just -- anecdotally it's not across the board, but we've seen indications that some of these officers have either refused to obey orders or not obeying them with the same measure of alacrity that you would expect an officer to obey.

Q: Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: And we're seeing that in the -- if you were to take a look at the anecdotal indications that we've had of that, it's in the Donbas region court.

Tony Capaccio?

Q: Hey, sir.

Couple quick questions on equipment. On Friday, the Pentagon announced the $17.8 million Switchblade contract. Can you give a rough sense of how many weapons are in the contract and when might they be delivered?

And then I had a broader question.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No. I can't answer that one, Tony. We'll have to take the question. Go ahead.

Q: Okay. All right, on sanctions, you know, two and a half months into the war, what impact have U.S. sanctions had on Russian capabilities to resupply its forces and to manufacturer munitions? Anything in particular you can point to?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes, we've seen they have blown through a lot of their PGMs. In fact, they continue to hit Mariupol with a lot of dumb bombs. And so, they're having inventory issues with precision-guided munitions and they're having trouble replacing PGMs, and we do believe that the sanctions and the export controls, particularly when it comes to components, electronic components has had an effect on the Russian defense industrial base and their ability to restock PGMs, so that's one example.

Q: Okay. You're starting to see, like, a bottleneck, a kind of cumulative impact of the sanctions coming to a head at this point?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't know if I'd call it a bottleneck, but it's definitely beginning to bite into his industrial base capabilities.

Q: Okay, thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes. Tara Copp?

Q: Good morning.

The drawdown that was announced late Friday, is that part of the $300 million? It was approximately $150 million that was announced, and it was a little bit confusing to me as to what bucket it's coming from.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: So this was the original drawdown authority that we got from Congress, we're sort of nearing the end of it. So before Friday we had about $250 million left of drawdown authority under existing authority. And so, you saw the president order $150 million of that, so we still have about $100 million left. And I'm sure we will use it. It's just a matter of how we work it out with the Ukrainians. But that's why because we're getting close to the end, that's why the president asked for another $5 billion in drawdown authority in that supplemental request, which we hope that Congress will act on quickly.

What we'd like to be able to do is get that approved before we get into the third week of this month so that we can just keep this support going in an uninterrupted fashion.

Q: And with each drawdown, are the Ukrainians informing you as to what they need at the time or is everything kind of presupposed as to what like the next $100 million will include as far as specific munitions or drones or whatever?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, I think that's one of the reasons why we break them up into packages of different values because we want to keep it relevant to what the Ukrainians need in the moment. And so, we're in constant contact with them.

So, you know, sometimes they're bigger, sometimes they're smaller, but it's all done in coordination with the Ukrainians about what the needs are. And so, we want to stay flexible on this because we don't know how the fight in the Donbas is going to go. We don't know how the fight in the south is going to go, and right now the south -- the southern movements are pretty much stalled, but in the Donbas, as I said, they're incremental.

And so we need to keep our finger on that pulse and be willing to be flexible with these drawdown packages, and that's what -- so each one's going to be -- each one's going to be a little different and that has to be okay.

Lara Seligman?

Q: Hey, thanks so much for doing this.

One quick follow-up and then I have a different question. On the M777s, is the U.S. doing the maintainer training or is that still the Canadians?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: My understanding is that that is the U.S. -- U.S. training but I will double check that. I'm pretty sure it's us.

Q: And -- but we're still not doing the training on the weapons, we're just doing the maintainer training? Is that correct?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, no, no, the Canadians are still doing the training but so is the United States. I mean, that's what we had those guys last week -- when I had General Hilbert join me on the phone with you guys, that's what he was talking about.

So yes, we are doing actual howitzer training, as well as the Canadians, but I'm pretty sure -- and I'll check on this -- I'm pretty sure that the maintenance course that we just started, I believe that's us.

Q: Okay, great, thank you.

And then also, I'm just wondering about the Ukrainians asked for self-propelled artillery, like the Paladin and also the MLRS. Can you tell us, since we're kind of on background here, what would be the reason that we haven't fulfilled those requests yet? Is there a strategic reason to that?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, Lara, I think it's better for me, even on background, to just not get ahead of decisions here on drawdown packages. Every time we do one, we'll announce what's in there for you, but the conversations that we're having with the Ukrainians, I think, we feel is better kept between us and the Ukrainians.

What I could tell you is we're in constant touch with them and every single package is coordinated with them and they know what they're getting and it's a result of a conversation with them.

And I think, for our part, we're going to keep our conversations with them private, and our announcements of what they're going to get, well, obviously we'll make those public.

Q: Just strategically, without giving anything away, can you give us some context about why these may be the right or the wrong weapons for them?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Again, this is a constant conversation we have with the Ukrainians about their needs. We know that long range fires are important. These howitzers are already in the fight -- not all of them but, I mean, we know that some of them are -- and the feedback we're getting from the Ukrainians are that they're very valuable. So I'm just going to leave it there.

Oren Liebermann?

Q: I want to ask about -- there was some satellite imagery that the Russians had established somewhere between one and three pontoon bridges over the Donetsk River, at a town called -- and forgive me for this -- Bilohorivka and the Ukrainians might have struck one of them. I was wondering if you had any insight into this, whether the Russians have been able to set up a pontoon bridge, whether it had been struck, and -- if you do, the significance of the location for the fight?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We do have assessments that Russians have built some pontoon bridges north of Popasna and we do have indications that the Ukrainians did successfully destroy one of those pontoon bridges.

Q: Out of -- one out of how many, do you know?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't know, Oren. I just know that they have constructed -- we know the Russians have constructed several pontoon bridges but I don't have the exact number and all I have is an indication that the Ukrainians have destroyed one bridge, that there could be more than that. That's the latest reporting I've got.

Q: And is there anything you can say on the -- on the significance of the position for the fight?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, I mean, look -- there's rivers and streams all throughout the Donbas, and again, if the mud is such that you're driven to paved roads and things and -- you know, it's going to be -- the rivers become even become a bigger obstacle.

So it doesn't surprise me that they would try to build fords across some of these rivers. We've seen -- this is certainly not the first time that we've seen that. We saw it elsewhere, in places that were further west of the Donbas in the early goings of the war. I mean, even around Kyiv.

So not a new tactic by the Russians to improve their mobility. Again, I think this gets right to what we were saying, that they're trying to learn from past mistakes and to improve their mobility and their ability to support their troops in the field.

So there's a mathematical logic, a tactical logic to wanting to have pontoon bridges over some of these rivers and streams but, you know, I can't account for every one that they're building on any given day.

Q: Okay, thank you, sir.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yep. Dan Lamothe?

Q: Hi, thank you. Good morning. Two questions, please.

One, if you can characterize in any greater detail the fighting around Kharkiv? And in particular, number of BTGs that might be involved? And there's been some pretty good reporting that would suggest that the Ukrainian effort there has bogged down Russian forces and prevented them from going into the -- farther south into the Donbas.

And then second question -- do we have any updates on rotations of U.S. forces in Poland and some of those Eastern Front countries? 

Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No updates on any change to our rotational posture in Europe. So I have nothing to report there.

And on Kharkiv, I sort of answered that to Jack, I don't know how I could do it any better than that. I don't know how many Russian BTGs are around Kharkiv. We could try to find out. I just don't have that here.

Oh, I'm being told there's three. Never mind, apparently we do have it. So there's three -- there you go -- so there's three dedicated to Kharkiv. And the Ukrainians continue to push them back. And you mentioned, the Ukrainians are -- by defending Kharkiv, they are helping prevent a southern push out of Kharkiv, and that is absolutely true.

That gets to what I was answering with Jack -- we know that they have wanted Kharkiv for a long time, not just for the industrial capacity there but because it provides another line of access to push south, not only into the Donbas but to the -- you know, pushing south to the west of the Donbas, to try to, again, fix and hold Ukrainian forces in the Donbas, but they just haven't been able to make any progress in that regard.

And what we're seeing is the Ukrainians are actually pushing them east, into the northern Donbas. So they've not been able to go through or around Kharkiv right now.

I see -- it's "Har-kiv." I've been told I've been pronouncing this wrong. It's -- it's a soft "K," so it's "Har-kiv." I keep screwing that up but.

Okay, Valerie?

Q: Thanks so much.

I wanted to ask about the latest drawdown package that came out on Friday. Could you give any specifics on what electronic jamming equipment has -- is going to be given to Ukraine? And, you know, maybe how that's connected to what they're seeing on the ground?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes, we are not going to get into detail about the electronic equipment.

I think the fact that we were able to describe it in that level of detail should tell you a lot about what the need is here. And this is -- it's all of a piece of allowing the Ukrainians to operate more effectively in a very condensed geographic area where we know the Russians routinely try to use electronic jamming as a way of their own ability to defend themselves against attacks.

So we're deliberately not going to get into more detail about this, but again I -- we -- we -- we're comfortable in the fact that this too is something that the Ukrainians need and made clear that they needed in this particular fight.

Q: Is this the first time that equipment has been given to the Ukrainians?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: To my knowledge, specific jamming equipment, I think this is the first time. I'd have to go back and look at every previous -- I mean, there's been a lot of stuff even before the invasion, but I think it's the first time since the invasion.

All right, Howard Altman.

Q: Thanks.

Two questions. One, given that there was no victory for Putin when asked to do a Victory Day parade, that there was no air show, and there was no -- apparently no Valery Gerasimov, what's the Pentagon's assessment of that event today?

And then I have another question.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I mean, I think I'd let the Russians speak for their parade. I mean, we're not focused on his parades, we're not focused on the fancy uniforms people wore today; or frankly we're not all that focused on who attended and who didn't.

We're focused on making sure that Ukraine continues to get the support that they need.

Q: My next question is do you assess that the Ukrainian defenders at the Azovstal Plant are still there and still fighting back against the Russians? And any sense of how long they can hold out?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The first answer to your first question, yes, they -- we still believe they're there. We still believe they're resisting. And I could begin to speculate about the length of time. I mean, that's really a question better put to them and the Ukrainian armed forces.

All right, last question goes to Kristina ?

Q: Hi. Thank you for taking my question. I don't have one; it was answered earlier. Thank you. Thank you for doing this briefing.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: All right. Sure, guys, you're welcome. 

Okay. Happy Monday, everybody. We'll see you a little bit later this afternoon out here.

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