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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
Dozens of protestors have been killed by security forces in Kazakhstan during widespread unrest sparked by the government’s removal of fuel price caps that caused the cost of liquefied petroleum gas to double. The individuals were killed as security forces sought to restore order in Almaty, one of Kazakhstan’s largest cities. Security forces moved in after protestors tried to take control of police stations, a police spokesperson has said. Twelve members of the security forces have been killed and 353 injured in the unrest. BBC News reports.
Russian paratroopers have arrived in Kazakhstan, as unrest and violent clashes between protestors, the army, and police continue in the country. The Russian paratroopers are part of a peacekeeping mission by a Moscow-led military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), to help Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev regain control of the country, according to Russian news agencies. Tokayev asked for an intervention from the CSTO late yesterday. Shaun Walker and Naubet Bisenov report for Guardian.
Armenian President Nikol Pashinyan, the CSTO’s current chair, said yesterday on Facebook that an unspecified number of troops would be sent to Kazakhstan “for a limited time period” to “stabilize and resolve the situation.” A summary of the unrest in Kazakhstan is provided by Isabelle Khurshudyan reporting for the Washington Post.
The events in Kazakhstan are a stark challenge for Kazakhstan’s president and are destabilizing an already volatile region where Russia and the U.S. compete for influence. Analysis of what is happening in Kazakhstan, and why it matters for the oil-rich Central Asian country and for global politics is provided by Dan Bilefsky reporting for the New York Times.
The events in Kazakhstan may cause difficulties for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Protestors have been demanding the end to the three-decade-long career of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the powerful head of the country’s National Security Council and a long-time Putin ally. When Tokayev dismissed Nazarbayev from his position yesterday, “there was no doubt left that the old regime, including Putin’s closest ally in the country, had fallen,” The Daily Beast reports.
Further reporting on the events in Kazakhstan is provided by Isabelle Khurshudyan and Amy Cheng for the Washington Post, and Helen Regan for CNN.
Top Senate Democratic party members are putting their concerns about the Nord Stream 2 Russian natural gas pipeline aside to back President Biden as he navigates talks with Moscow. As the Senate prepares to vote next week on legislation from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that would force Biden to impose sanctions on the pipeline, Democrats, who have consistently supported such sanctions, have signaled a significant shift in their position, saying that they do not want to undermine Biden as he engages with Russia on its military buildup along the border with Ukraine. Andrew Desiderio reports for POLITICO.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that results from the high-stakes talks with the U.S. and its allies on security in Europe are “needed immediately,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has told Bloomberg. “We can’t even talk about months here, let alone years,” Ryabkov added, declining to specify a deadline. A meeting between the U.S. and Russia is set for Jan. 9 – 10 in Geneva. Ilya Arkhipov reports for Bloomberg.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stressed that Russia must de-escalate tensions on the border with Ukraine in order for upcoming diplomatic meetings between Russia and the U.S. to succeed. Blinken said that the path of “diplomacy and de-escalation” was one of two the U.S. and international community have laid out for Moscow, the other being a path “of deterrence, including the serious costs, the massive consequences it would incur if it renews its aggression against Ukraine.” Jennifer Hansler reports for CNN.
Rockets and indirect fire struck bases hosting U.S.-led military coalition forces in Iraq and Syria in at least three separate attacks yesterday, the third day in a row that Iran-aligned paramilitary groups have targeted the U.S. and its allies in the region. A military base in northeastern Syria, known as Green Village, came under eight rounds of indirect fire, prompting Coalition forces to respond with six rounds of artillery fire. The base also conducted strikes earlier in the day against rocket launch sites. None of the attacks on Coalition forces caused any casualties or major damage, however Central Command described the attacks as “a dangerous distraction from the mission,” as well as a serious threat to civilians. Jared Malsin and Ghassan Adnan report for the Wall Street Journal.
“It’s difficult to know with great specificity and certainty…what accounts for the frequency of these attacks,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters. Kirby said it was possible that the attacks related to the second anniversary earlier this week of the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, but it was also “certainly possible that it could be related to the change in mission” in Iraq. Barbara Starr and Devan Cole report for CNN.
The U.K. has been accused of reviving a policy of “targeted killing” after it emerged that the Royal Air Force killed an arms dealer linked to the Islamic State in a precision drone strike in Syria at the end of October. The U.K. Ministry of Defense reported at the end of November that the crew of a Reaper drone had “tracked a known terrorist in northern Syria” and undertaken a “successful attack…at a safe moment, when the individual was alone in a field.” Dan Sabbagh reports for the Guardian.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
North Korea successfully tested a hypersonic missile yesterday, state media has reported, the country’s second reported test. North Korean state media reported that the missile “precisely hit” a set target 70km (434 miles) away. BBC News reports.
South Korea and Japan originally described the North Korean test as a ballistic missile test. However, photos put on display yesterday indicate the missile matched a model from an event in October, which weapons experts have identified as a liquid-fueled maneuvering re-entry vehicle that is one of North Korea’s hypersonic missiles. Dasl Yoon reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was trapped on a flyover for 20 minutes by protesters in Punjab yesterday. The incident was described as “a major lapse in the security” of the Prime Minister by the Indian federal home ministry. BBC News reports.
Ethiopia has lifted a five-month suspension of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)’s aid work in the country, after it cleared the organization of allegations of spreading “misinformation.” The Ethiopian government ordered the NRC, along with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), to stop work for three months in July. However, while MSF’s suspension was lifted in October, the NRC’s was extended. Kaamil Ahmed reports for the Guardian.
Thousands of people from the war-torn Tigray region of Ethiopia are being deported from Saudi Arabia and held in secret detention sites in Ethiopia. In a new report, international rights organization Human Rights Watch has said that it has identified two detention sites, which are most likely used to detain Tigrayan deportees, where thousands of Tigrayans are being mistreated and forcibly disappeared. The report also includes testimony from deportees who claim that they were abused and beaten while in custody in Saudi Arabia. Katie McQue reports for the Guardian.
Taiwan’s air force has staged a drill simulating intercepting Chinese planes, amid heightened military tensions with China. Fabian Hamacher and Ann Wang report for Reuters.
Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian gunman today during a clash in the Palestinian city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military has said. Israeli soldiers had entered the city to detain a Palestinian man when “some Palestinian gunmen began firing at the soldiers, prompting them to respond and kill one of them,” a military spokesperson said. Reuters reports.
A Russian rocket stage has made an uncontrolled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, according to the U.S. Space Command, which has been tracking its descent. It is highly unlikely that the rocket would cause damage or hurt anyone, and it may be impossible to determine exactly where the debris landed. “The Angara-A5 heavy-lift rocket was launched from the Plesetsk spaceport in Russia’s northwestern Arkhangelsk region on Monday, December 27. The launch was testing a new upper rocket stage, known as the Persei booster, according to the state-run TAS news agency,” Katie Hunt, Kristin Fisher and Jackie Wattles report for CNN.
JAN. 6 ATTACK – ANNIVERSARY
Attorney General Merrick Garland in remarks yesterday on the Jan. 6 attack and the Justice Department’s response, emphasized a commitment to the rule of law and to following the facts wherever they lead. Garland’s remarks can be watched on the New York Times.
Garland vowed that “the Justice Department remains committed to holding all Jan. 6 perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.” In his speech, Garland also reiterated that the Justice Department would not share details about its findings. He addressed criticism that many guilty pleas obtained by the department have been for misdemeanors which come with little jail time, saying that complex cases often first yielded charges that were “less severe than later charged offenses” because investigators needed time to collect and examine more evidence. Katie Benner reports for the New York Times.
Garland did not name former President Trump in his speech, but his comments seemed designed to address complaints that the Justice Department was not taking a broad enough view of possible crimes connected to the attack, or looking at sufficiently high-profile targets. “The actions we have taken thus far will not be our last,” Garland said, adding later that “there cannot be different rules for the powerful and the powerless.” Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett report for the Washington Post.
Further reporting on Garland’s speech is provided by Sadie Gurman for the Wall Street Journal, Pete Williams for NBC News, and Tierney Sneed for CNN.
Thomas Manger, the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP), told the Senate Rules Committee yesterday that the USCP would put in place more than 100 recommendations for improvement made by the Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack. A portion of Menger’s speech to the committee can be watched on the New York Times.
The USCP has started working on 90 of 103 recommendations made by Bolton, from training to new recruitment efforts, according to a report obtained by CNN from Senate Sergeant at Arms Karen Gibson, House Sergeant at Arms William Walker, Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton, and Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger. “‘In less than a year, the USCP has developed, and in many instances implemented, significant strategies, tactical and operational improvements to every USCP bureau,’ the report says, adding that the improvements ‘number in the hundreds,’” Whitney Wild reports for CNN.
In his speech this morning, on the anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack, President Biden is expected to “lay out the significance of what happened at the Capitol and the singular responsibility Trump has for the chaos and carnage that we saw,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said. Psaki added that Biden will also “push back on the lie spread by the former President and attempt to mislead the American people and his own supporters as well as distract from his role and what happened.” Maegan Vazquez and Clare Foran report for CNN.
JAN. 6 ATTACK – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Senior officials in President Biden’s administration have concluded that the government’s Jan. 6 preparations were hampered by a lack of high-level information-sharing and a failure to anticipate worst-case scenarios. The officials have said they are applying these lessons, which are not formal findings, in an effort to prevent another such attack. Devlin Barrett, Ashley Parker and Aaron C. Davis report for the Washington Post.
Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham met yesterday with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, according to sources familiar with the meeting. Grisham told reporters that she “cooperated fully with the committee,” declining to provide additional comments. Grisham’s “meeting with the committee came after she had a phone call with committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) during which Raskin encouraged her to meet with the panel,” Kate Bennett and Ryan Nobles report for CNN.
Four new lawsuits have been filed in recent days seeking to prevent Jan. 6 select committee subpoenas for phone records. The latest lawsuits are in their earliest stages, before the House has responded. The latest individuals seeking to stop the committee obtaining their phone records include “right-wing media personalities Mike Lindell and Sebastian Gorka, a married couple accused of taking part in a conspiracy among the Oath Keepers to storm the Capitol on January 6, and a person who has so far remained anonymous,” Katelyn Polantz reports for CNN.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
During the 2020 racial justice protests, Seattle’s police exchanged a series of fake radio transmissions about members of the Proud Boys group marching around downtown Seattle, carrying guns, and then heading to confront protesters on Capitol Hill, the city’s Office of Police Accountability has found. The use of the faked radio chatter was an improper “ruse,” that exacerbated a volatile situation on the Capitol Hill in Seattle, the findings state. The fake radio chatter was part of an approved “misinformation effort” that multiple police leaders knew about, according to the report. However, fabricating the group of Proud Boys as part of the effort violated department policy, the findings state. Daniel Beekman reports for The Seattle Times.
The Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Michael Carvajal, plans to resign as the agency struggles with issues that have overshadowed Carvajal’s tenure since Feb. 2020, including his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, employee misconduct, understaffing, and violence. Commenting on the resignation, a Justice Department spokesperson said yesterday that Carvajal’s “operational experience and intimate knowledge of the Bureau of Prisons — the department’s largest component — helped steer it during critical times, including during this historic pandemic.” Katie Benner reports for the New York Times.
Anger at the strict lockdown in Xi’an, China, and the struggles of Xi’an’s citizens, is spreading in China. Authorities in the city have reversed some Covid-19 restrictions following a nationwide outcry over a woman who lost her unborn baby in the eighth month of pregnancy after being denied medical attention for hours because she did not have a negative Covid-19 test. Liyan Qi reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Postal Service has asked for a temporary 120 day waiver from the Biden administration’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate. In a letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Deputy Postmaster General Douglas A. Tulino contended that requiring workers to be vaccinated or present weekly negative tests would hurt the Postal Service’s ability to deliver the mail and strain the nation’s supply chains. Jacob Bogage reports for the Washington Post.
The coronavirus has infected over 57.76 million people and has now killed over 832,100 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 297.91 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.46 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.