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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
A top advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was shot at yesterday while being driving in his car outside Kyiv, in what the authorities have said was an assassination attempt. The adviser, Serhiy Shefir, was unharmed, but his driver was shot and wounded in the attack, Irina Venediktova, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, said in a statement on Facebook. Ukraine’s deputy interior minister Anton Gerashchenko described the attack as “serious” and “a real assassination attempt,” in a brief interview. Ivan Nechepurenko and Michael Schwirtz report for the New York Times.
Ukrainian police are trying to work out who ordered unidentified individuals to undertake the assassination attempt, with the head of Ukraine’s political party saying that Russia could be behind the attack. “A Russian trace should not be absolutely ruled out. We know their ability to organize terrorist attacks in different countries,” Oleksandr Korniienko told reporters. Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets report for Reuters.
The Ukrainian president has criticized the U.N. as a “retired superhero” that has lost sight of what it used to be during his address to the U.N. General Assembly meeting. Zelensky called out failures of the U.N. in areas from sharing Covid-19 vaccines to halting climate change to turning back Russia’s annexation of Ukraine. Zelensky also proposed to the U.N. that it should head to global hotspots to hold its meeting and offered to host one. Jennifer Peltz reports for AP.
Russia’s navy has practiced firing at targets in the Black Sea off the coast of annexed Crimea using its Bastion coastal missile defense system, Russia’s Defense Ministry has said. The announcement comes as Ukraine holds joint military drills with the U.S. and other NATO troops that are set to run until Oct. 1. Reuters reports.
Ukraine’s parliament has passed a law today to order “oligarchs” to register and stay out of politics. Officials have said that the attempt to kill a top aide of Ukraine’s president could have been a response to the reform. “The law, which passed at the first reading in July, is meant to define what an oligarch is and says those who fall under the criteria are forbidden from financing political parties or taking part in privatizations,” Reuters reports.
The chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, has said that his meeting with his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, in Helsinki yesterday was “productive.” Milley added that “when military leaders of great powers communicate, the world is a safer place.” Both sides agreed not to disclose details of the talks, as has been the practice in previous meetings and calls. The issue of U.S. bases in countries neighboring Afghanistan, which Russia strongly opposes, is a key topic of Milley’s trip to Europe. Lolita C. Baldor reports for AP.
President Biden told global leaders at the U.N. General Assembly meeting this week that he had ended America’s “forever wars,” however this assertion contrasts sharply with the prolonged U.S. military missions that continue in Africa and the Middle East. “A force of more than 3,000 American military service members are arrayed on bases across Iraq and Syria, dug in on an extended mission against the Islamic State that exposes them to dangers including drone and rocket attacks. In places including Somalia and Yemen, smaller cadres of Special Operations troops operate alongside local forces as part of more-shadowy missions against al-Qaeda-linked fighters and others, while periodic drone strikes demonstrate American firepower from the air,” Missy Ryan reports for the Washington Post.
Republican lawmakers have raised security and privacy concerns over Huawei cloud services, warning that they could be used by U.S. and foreign governments. In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) detailed “their concerns around the use of Huawei cloud services in over 40 countries due to the access it gives the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to systems, and urg[ed] Blinken to ensure that the use of these services does not expand any further,” Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
Ambassador Pamela Spratlen, the top State Department official overseeing the response to “Havana Syndrome,” is leaving her position after only six months on the job, three officials have said. “Spratlen is departing this week as the State Department faces growing questions about its response to Havana Syndrome and the care and benefits being provided to suffering employees. In recent days, Spratlen had faced a public call for her resignation, and numerous U.S. diplomats said she had lost the confidence of affected employees. The State Department said Wednesday that Spratlen was leaving now because she had ‘reached the threshold of hours of labor’ allowed under her status as a retiree,” Josh Lederman and Brenda Breslauer report for NBC News.
President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron have taken a tentative step to try and mend their relations after the diplomatic feud over the Aukus defense pact between the U.S, U.K. and Australia, saying that it would have benefitted from better communication. Biden and Macron spoke yesterday, which the White House described as “friendly.” While the U.S. has not apologized for keeping France in the dark over the Aukus pact, a joint statement said that “the two leaders agreed that the situation would have benefited from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners,” which was the minimum U.S. expression of regret sought by Macron. David E. Sanger and Roger Cohen report for the New York Times.
The French ambassador to the U.S. will return to Washington, D.C., next week after Biden and Macron spoke yesterday. Macron recalled the French ambassador, Phillipe Etienne, in response to the Aukus pact. Brett Samuels reports for The Hill.
Biden and Macron agreed on the call to meet in Europe at the end of October. Both leaders are scheduled to attend the Group of 20 summit in Rome at that time. White House aides have also said it was possible that the leaders would meet separately to underscore their resolve to mend their relationship. The joint statement from Biden and Macron’s phone call stated that “the two leaders have decided to open a process of in-depth consultations, aimed at creating the conditions for ensuring confidence and proposing concrete measures toward common objectives,” and that they would meet in person “in order to reach shared understandings and maintain momentum in this process.” Anne Gearan, Rick Noack, John Hudson and Adam Taylor report for the Washington Post.
French defense contractor Naval Group is preparing to bill Australia over the $66 billion submarine contract between France and Australia that was sunk by the Aukus pact, which involves sharing technology on nuclear-powered submarines. “Naval Group chief executive Pierre Éric Pommellet told France’s Le Figaro newspaper in an article published Wednesday that a bill would be sent to Canberra in the coming weeks…Pommellet said that Australia had told his company, which is majority-owned by the French taxpayer, to go ahead with a new phase of the program on the morning last week that the contract was terminated,” Rachel Pannett reports for the Washington Post.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told the French to “prenez un grip about this and donnez-moi un break” over the Aukus defense and security deal. Johnson was speaking in Washington, D.C., where he attended a dinner on Tuesday evening with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, after meeting Biden at the White House. Heather Stewart reports for the Guardian.
A spate of attacks from Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISISK) killed at least five people in Nangarhar province yesterday, the latest outbreak of violence in an area where ISISK is mounting a challenge to the Taliban’s rule. “Militants carried out at least two bombings and a gun attack Wednesday in Jalalabad, Nangarhar’s provincial capital. In the shooting attack, at least two Taliban fighters and a civilian were killed, according to local residents,” Saeed Shah and Yaroslav Trofimov report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Taliban’s newly appointed envoy to the U.N. has urged quick world recognition of the Taliban government, as the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan worsens. The Taliban have announced Suhail Shaheen, a former peace negotiator and spokesman for the Taliban political office, as their new U.N. representative. Though, without world recognition of the Taliban, Afghan Ambassador Ghulam Isaczai continues to be Afghanistan’s U.N. representative. “We have all the requirements needed for recognition of a government. So we hope the U.N. as a neutral world body recognize the current government of Afghanistan,” Shaheen told the Associated Press. The World Health Organization has also warned of an impending humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan and “in an emergency measure, the U.N. aid coordinator Martin Griffiths released $45 million in life-saving support Wednesday for Afghanistan from the world body’s emergency fund,” Kathy Gannon reports for AP.
Multiple Republican and Democratic lawmakers stormed out of a classified briefing with members of President Biden’s administration on Afghanistan yesterday morning after their questions about the number of Americans in Afghanistan were not answered, according to sources familiar with the briefing. The lawmakers “grew frustrated after State Department, Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security, and Office of the Director of National Security officials failed to answer their basic questions during the briefing for members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the sources told CNN,” Kylie Atwood reports for CNN.
The various unilateral sanctions or restrictions on Afghanistan should be lifted as soon as possible, China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at virtual Group of 20 foreign ministers meeting yesterday. According to the Chinese foreign ministry, Wang said that “Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves are national assets that should belong to the country’s people and be used by its own people, and not be used as a bargaining chip to exert political pressure on Afghanistan,” Reuters reports.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is aware of reports that personnel at Fort McCoy, a military base in Wisconsin, are struggling to feed and provide clean clothes and heat for Afghan refugees at the base. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that the Pentagon is taken the reports “very, very seriously,” but did not offer details on solutions to the matter. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers heading the police reform negotiations have said that their talks are officially over amid deep divisions that they were not able to overcome. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who has been negotiating with Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) for months, said yesterday that the talks had ended without a deal to reform police tactics and put new accountability measures in place. “Unfortunately, even with this law enforcement support and further compromises we offered, there was still too wide a gulf with our negotiating partners and we faced significant obstacles to securing a bipartisan deal,” Booker said in a statement. Jordain Carney reports for The Hill.
President Biden has criticized Senate Republicans after the police reform negotiations ended without a deal, criticizing them for rejecting even modest reforms. In a statement, Biden thanked Booker and Bass for their work on the bill and blamed the Republican party for the legislation dying after months of negotiations. “Regrettably, Senate Republicans rejected enacting modest reforms, which even the previous president had supported, while refusing to take action on key issues that many in law enforcement were willing to address,” Biden said. Jason Hoffman reports for CNN.
The Pentagon has announced plans to address sexual assault and domestic violence in the military, after the White House and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin supported the recommendations made by an independent review commission. “The implementation plan includes proposed changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the planned creation of the Office of the Special Victim Prosecutor, which will remove the investigation of sexual assault and domestic violence from the chain of command, one defense official said. It will also include plans for implementing a number of the other recommendations made by the independent review commission,” Oren Liebermann and Ellie Kaufman report for CNN.
The State Department closed investigations into allegations of racism and sexism against former President Trump’s then-ambassador to the U.K. shortly before Trump left office, an internal memo has shown. According to the memo sent on Jan. 12, the State Department’s Office of Civil Rights found the allegations against Robert Johnson related to “race, sex and religion” to be “unsubstantiated,” though they had been documented in a review by the department’s independent inspector general. Nicole Gaouette reports for CNN.
The FBI, the National Security Agency, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have issued a joint alert warning U.S. organizations to be aware of a specific type of ransomware that has already targeted 400 U.S. and international groups. The joint alert “outlined steps that organizations can take to protect themselves against the Conti ransomware variant, which involves cybercriminals using malicious emails, phone calls, or stolen credentials to steal and encrypt information and demand payment from victims to regain access,” Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has thrown out a previous ruling it had made that found a ban on handgun sales to people under 21 to be unconstitutional. The Court ruled that its previous ruling in July was now moot as the two plaintiffs in the case had recently turned 21. “Circuit Judge Julius Richardson said vacating the ruling he had previously authored would serve the public’s interest as it would make way for further litigation in the future,” Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.
A federal judge is set to hear a request for release from prison from lawyers of a Proud Boys member who allegedly took part in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The lawyers have argued that Dominic Pezzola’s imprisonment is making it difficult for them to consult with him and review potentially relevant evidence. Mark Hosenball reports for Reuters.
The man who claimed that he had a bomb in his vehicle by the U.S. Capitol, causing the building to be evacuated, pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted use of an explosive device in court yesterday. North Carolinian Floyd Ray Roseberry livestreamed his threat to detonate a bomb inside his truck near the Library of Congress on Facebook. Police did not find an explosive device in Roseberry’s truck after he surrendered but said it contained undisclosed bomb-making materials. A federal judge declared yesterday that Roseberry is mentally competent to stand trial. Jacob Knutson reports for Axios.
President Biden is avoiding calls to stop deportations of Haitians, even as his team expresses outrage over images of aggressive treatment by border agents, leading to Biden losing supporters and allies over immigration. The White House has also not yet provided any solution to the crowding and sanitary issues arising in what has become a makeshift encampment along the Del Rio International Bridge. Natasha Korecki and Laura Barrón-López report for POLITICO.
The deportations of Haitian migrants from Texas are proving to be a stark example of how Biden has deployed aggressive approaches to immigration put in place by former President Trump over the past four years. Michael D. Shear, Natalie Kitroeff, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Eileen Sullivan provide analysis for the New York Times.
Migrants who recently entered the U.S. illegally are crossing back over the border to Mexico out of fear that they could join about 1,000 others that the Biden administration has flown back to Haiti this week. Ciudad Acuña in Mexico “on Tuesday was full of migrants originally from Haiti with similar stories. Many were still figuring out what they would do next but were certain they didn’t want to risk being flown to Haiti, which they left years ago for job opportunities in South America before journeying to the U.S. because of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated economic disruptions,” Alcia A. Caldwell reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Vice President Harris has raised “grave concerns” over the treatment of Haitian migrants in a call with the Department for Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “The Vice President raised her grave concerns about the mistreatment of Haitian migrants by border patrol agents on horses, and the need of all (Customs and Border Protection) agents to treat people with dignity, humanely and consistent with our laws and our values,” Harris’ chief spokesperson Symone Sanders said in a statement. Jasmine Wright reports for CNN.
The Biden administration is advertising for a new contract to operate a migrant detention facility at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The base has a capacity of 120 people, with government records saying that the base “will have an estimated daily population of 20 people,” however “the service provider shall be responsible to maintain on site the necessary equipment to erect temporary housing facilities for populations that exceed 120 and up to 400 migrants in a surge event,” the contract solicitation issued by the DHS states. The solicitation states that the formal bidding for the contract is expected to take place late this fall and specifies that the guards should speak Spanish and Haitian Creole. In a statement to NBC News the DHS said that it “is not [sending] and will not send Haitian nationals being encountered at the southwest border to the Migrant Operations Center (MOC) in Guantanamo Bay. The MOC has been used for decades to process migrants interdicted at sea for third-country resettlement…The contract was initially awarded in 2002 with the current term ending on May 31, 2022.” Jacob Soboroff and Ken Dilanian report for NBC News.
Facebook has been ordered by a federal judge to hand over information about posts removed by the social media company in 2018 for promoting violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Facebook had shut down accounts for promoting violence against the Rohingya, but it had resisted sharing information about those accounts with countries pursuing a genocide case against Myanmar in international court, arguing that providing such documents in response to a civil subpoena would violate U.S. privacy law. Aruna Viswanatha reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.N. independent rights expert on human rights in Myanmar, has told the U.N. Human Rights Council that conditions in Myanmar following the Feb. 1 military coup have worsened, urging a “change of course” to prevent further human rights abuses and deaths. “According to Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews, since its power grab and overthrow of the democratically-elected Government, the junta and its forces have murdered more than 1,100 people, arbitrarily detained more than 8,000, and forcibly displaced more than 230,000 civilians, bringing the total number of internally placed persons in Myanmar to well over half a million,” UN News Centre reports.
Andrews said that the relatives, including children as young as 20 weeks old, of those targeted for arrest are being abducted by the junta in Myanmar as a means to force targets to hand themselves in. “I have received credible reports that junta forces have arbitrarily detained at least 177 individuals when the initial target of a raid had successfully eluded arrest. These victims include very young children as young as 20 weeks old,” Andres told the U.N. Human rights Council. Rebecca Ratcliffe reports for the Guardian.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has expressed hope that the kingdom’s direct talks with Iran will lead to confidence building as the two countries take small steps towards dialogue following several years of heightened tensions. “King Salman made the remarks in a pre-recorded speech delivered to leaders gathered for the U.N. General Assembly. He said Iran is a neighbor of Saudi Arabia, and that the kingdom hopes talks between the two nations can lead to tangible results that pave the way to achieving the aspirations of the region’s people. He cautioned, though, that relations must be based on respect of national sovereignty and the cessation of support for sectarian militias,” Aya Batrawy and Abdullah Al-Shihri report for AP.
The E.U.’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has urged Iran to return to talks on its nuclear program, while Iran’s foreign minister reiterated Tehran’s “willingness to resume negotiations.” Borell met with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian on Tuesday. Borrell stressed “the need for full cooperation from Iran and reiterated his concern about the overall trajectory of the Iranian nuclear program,” the E.U. statement on the meeting said. Borrell “underlined once again the great importance of a quick resumption of the Vienna talks,” the statement said, adding that Amirabdollahian assured him “of the willingness to resume negotiations at an early date.” Edith M. Lederer reports for AP.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Algeria’s presidency has announced a closure of the country’s airspace to all Moroccon planes. The move was announced after a meeting of the High Security Council chaired by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. A statement said that the immediate shutting down affected “all civilian and military aircraft as well as to those registered in Morocco” and came “in view of the continued provocations and hostile practices on the Moroccan side.” Al Jazeera reports.
Tunisian President Kais Saied has declared that he will rule by decree and ignore parts of Tunisia’s constitution as he prepares to change the country’s political system. Saied wrote into the official gazette rules that allow him to issue “legislative texts” by decree, appoint a Cabinet and set its policy direction and basic decisions without interference. The elected Parliament that Saied suspended in July, will remain frozen and its members will stop being paid their salaries and will be stripped of immunity from prosecution. Reuters reporting.
The head of the U.N. food agency, the World Food Program, has warned that 16 million people in Yemen “are marching toward starvation” and that food rations for millions in the nation will be cut in October unless new funding is provided. Edith M. Lederer reports for AP.
Taiwan’s air force scrambled jets today to warn off 19 Chinese aircraft that entered Taiwan’s air defense zone, Taiwan’s defense ministry has said. “The Chinese aircraft included 12 J-16 fighters and two nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, the ministry added,” Reuters reports.
Sudanese military leaders have blamed civilian politicians for the military coup that was thwarted earlier this week, saying that politicians had neglected public welfare while consumed by internal squabbles. “Under an August 2019 power-sharing deal in the wake of the overthrow of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir, Sudan is ruled by a joint military and civilian body known as the sovereign council that is tasked with overseeing a transition to full civilian rule…Speaking at a military graduation in Omdurman, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the Sovereign Council, and his deputy General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, accused the civilian politicians of seeking personal gains and forgetting the aims of the revolution,” Al Jazeera reports.
The coronavirus has infected over 42.54 million and has now killed close to 681,200 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 230.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 4.71 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.
A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.
Latest updates on the pandemic at the Guardian.