Apr 14, 2022

Pentagon: We Know Russian Warship Suffered An Explosion 4/14/22 Transcript

Pentagon: We Know Russian Warship Suffered An Explosion 4/14/22 Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsJohn KirbyPentagon: We Know Russian Warship Suffered An Explosion 4/14/22 Transcript

Ukrainian officials said their forces launched a successful missile attack on the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, forcing the crew to evacuate the vessel. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby joins Morning Joe to discuss what is known about the explosion as well as the White House’s plans to send new weapons to Ukraine 4/14/22. Read the transcript here.


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Joe: (00:00)
Springing right now, press secretary of the Pentagon, retired rear admiral, John Kirby. Admiral, it’s so good to talk to you. We spoke to another admiral this morning who said the first thing that you were taught when you get into the officer ranks is don’t let the flagship go down. Apparently, they did not teach Russian admirals that same thing. What can you tell us?

John Kirby: (00:25)
Well, here’s what we know. We don’t know everything, Joe. This is one of three cruisers in the Russian fleet. She was operating about 60 miles or so south of Odesa and we know she suffered an explosion. It looks like from the images that we’ve been able to look at, it looks like there’s a pretty sizable explosion too. We don’t know what caused that explosion. We do know that the ship is operating under her own power. She looks to be heading more to the east now, probably heading into port. Our guess would be Sevastopol for repairs, and that’s really all we know. We’ve seen the social media reports that this one, maybe a Ukrainian coastal defense missile hit it. We can’t rule that out, we just don’t have enough information right now.

Joe: (01:04)
Yeah. Now, what can you tell us about the significance of getting anti ship weapons to the Ukrainians for the next stage of the battle? How important is that, that the west supplies them with anti ship weapons they need?

John Kirby: (01:18)
I would tell you that coastal defense in general, Joe, is important right now as the Russians try to press what little bit of advantage they might have in the Donbas in terms of just numbers. So they’re focusing very heavily on that east, and that’s why Mariupol is so important. If you look at a map, you’ll see Mariupol lies right on the Sea of Azov at the very southern end of that Donbas area, that eastern part of Ukraine. It’s a major economic port for Ukraine, also would give Russia, should they be able to take it, a land bridge down to Crimea and certainly allow them to come north up into the Donbas, so you can understand why maritime capabilities are also important here and why the Ukrainians want some sort of coastal defense capability, including coastal defense missiles. Now, one of the things that we announced in that a big 800 million package yesterday was some coastal defense unmanned vehicles, unmanned surface vessels that we can give to Ukraine that could help them with some of those defense capabilities in the Sea of Azov.

Joe: (02:15)
So yesterday morning I think it was, we saw the breaking news. Maybe it was the night before, saw the breaking news about this new package, a very robust package. But then the next morning, yesterday morning, we heard that the helos were not going to be included in that, yet the president had a call with President Zelensky who offered the helos. Why can you tell us? Can you clear this up a little bit? Could we be providing helos to the Ukrainians?

John Kirby: (02:39)
We absolutely are. There’s 11 in this package and I might remind you know, back in January, late January, we provided five Mi-17s that were going to be destined for the Afghan National Security Forces, so before the invasion, well before, we gave them five. Now, there’s another 11. There was some back and forth with Ukrainians over the last couple of days about the helicopters, I’ll be honest with you, and we wanted to make sure that this was a iterative conversation we’re having with them, that we’re listening to them and to what they need. At one point, they wanted them and then maybe there was a discussion, maybe we didn’t need them, and we ended up putting them back on.

Willie Geist: (03:15)
Admiral, good morning. It’s Willie Geist. We’ll never hear an admission of failure from Vladimir Putin but he effectively did that a couple of days ago when he came out and announced, okay, our focus now is squarely on the east. Remember, the goal as you know better than we do a couple of months ago was for him to roll into Kiev, have a victory parade and install a new government. Now, clearly moving the goal posts here so what does that tell you about, number one, the state of the Russian military, what it’s still capable of, and number two, how does that change your thinking strategically, along with the Ukrainians?

John Kirby: (03:45)
So two things here. One, we don’t believe they have overcome all their logistics and sustainment problems, their command and control issues, unit cohesion and morale, organization. All those problems are still bedeviling the Russian military. Air to ground integration is still not very good. That said, what they’re going to try to do here is refocus on a smaller geographic area so they’ll be able to apply all that available combat power, and they still have a lot of it, in a smaller geographic area. You’ve seen that they’ve now named a new general to take over as commander in chief so they’re trying to do better at organizing their force and getting cohesion and command and control in a better shape than it’s been, and they’re going to be able to concentrate those efforts on an area by the way that the Russians and the Ukrainians have been fighting over now for eight years.

John Kirby: (04:32)
Both sides know the terrain and it’s a little like Kansas, it’s open it’s flat and so it lends itself better to open maneuver of forces, mechanized forces, tanks, armored vehicles and artillery fire. And that’s why, again, if you take a look at the package that President Biden signed out yesterday, there’s 40,000 rounds of artillery that we’re giving them and 18 howitzers to go with it, so artillery pieces to actually help them at that, including a counter artillery radar that will help save Ukrainian lives because it’ll help them anticipate and get ready for incoming artillery fire. So we think this fight’s going to look a lot different than what we’ve seen in the north where it’s more forested, more hilly, more cities. This is going to be a little bit more open warfare we think and we’re doing everything we can to make sure that the Ukrainians are ready for that.

Willie Geist: (05:18)
And right at the Russian border so easier for Russian troops to supply themselves in a way they’ve completely failed to do elsewhere. So you mentioned this new commander, he’s known as the butcher of Syria. Vladimir Putin placing him in command, which gives us some ugly foreshadowing of what may be to come. We’ve seen the scenes now out of Bucha as media outlets have moved in there. Of course, we’ve seen the images out of Mariupol. Does the idea that this man is now in charge with a singular focus on that part of the country, does it change the urgency of the United States’ effort to bolster Ukraine with this package? Because it is going to be an ugly fight in the east.

John Kirby: (05:56)
I wouldn’t go so far as to say, Willie, that this officer is changing our sense of urgency. I think we all recognize that time is not our friend right now. We’re working against the clock because the Russians are resupplying, refitting and trying to reinforce their forces in the Donbas and we can see it happening now. They’re moving columns down from the north into Luhansk in the Donetsk area, so we know that time is not on our side, that they’re going to be able to now concentrate a greater amount of force on a smaller area and that’s really what’s driving us, as well as of course conversations that we’re having with the Ukrainians.

John Kirby: (06:29)
The fact that they put a guy in charge tells us they’re trying to get better command and control. They’re trying to fix the problems they’ve had in the past when they were advancing on three major geographic lines of access with very little integration between units. They’re going to try to fix that now but the fact that it’s him and he’s got this history in Syria, while that’s certainly concerning given the kinds of atrocities we’ve seen, we don’t believe that’s necessarily driving the sense of urgency. It’s really about the reinforcement efforts that the Russians are up to.

Speaker 4: (06:57)
We’re reading a lot, admiral, about the morale among the Russian military running low or being confused, not really understanding the mission. How important is it, these images out of Kiev, of leaders from around the world showing their support by literally showing up?

John Kirby: (07:16)
It’s important. Obviously, any show of support to the Ukrainian people, to the Ukrainian government is important. Of course, we’re showing our support with the material assistance that’s going in and it’s going in every single day, eight to 10 flights a day heading into the region and literally dozens of ground movements almost every single day into Ukraine. All that’s important. I think it’s critical that the international community rally to the side of Ukraine, so yes, some of this is certainly a demonstration of support but it’s really more important and I think President Zelensky would agree with this, that he’s actually getting the material that he needs to wage this fight.

Joe: (07:57)
Hey, thanks so much for watching our YouTube channel. You can fall follow up on today’s top stories and breaking news or catch up on your favorite MSNBC shows all in one place. Download the NBC News app today.

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