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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.
164 people have been killed in last week’s unrest in Kazakhstan, which was sparked by fuel price rises, including three children, authorities in Kazakhstan have said. Kazakhstan’s health ministry said that 103 of the deaths were in Almaty, the country’s largest city. The number of people detained by police in connection with the unrest continues to rise, with the interior ministry saying today that 8,000 people have been detained throughout the country. Shaun Walker reports for the Guardian.
Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has said that Kazakhstan has weathered an attempted coup d’état coordinated by what he called “a single center.” In a speech to an online meeting of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) military alliance, Tokayev said that order had now been restored in Kazakhstan, but that the hunt for “terrorists” was ongoing. A large-scale “counter-terrorism” operation would soon end along with a CSTO mission that numbered 2,030 troops and 250 pieces of military hardware, Tokayev said. He also “defended his decision to invite Russian-led troops into the country and said that doubts over the legitimacy of that mission stemmed from a lack of information,” Reuters reports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed Kazakhstan’s violent unrest on destructive internal and external forces, and said that the CSTO would not allow its member governments to be toppled in “color revolutions.” Putin told an online meeting of the CSTO that the deployment of CSTO troops had prevented armed groups from undermining the basis of power in Kazakhstan, adding that the troops would be withdrawn once the mission was complete. Reuters reports.
Russia sent fresh reinforcements into Kazakhstan yesterday, deploying troops to help authorities reassert control in Kazakhstan’s biggest cities. The Russian Defense Ministry said it had prepared a contingent of more than 75 transport planes to allow for continuous deployment of troops into the country. Thomas Grove reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Internet services have returned to Almaty following a five-day blackout, while a state of emergency and a nationwide curfew remain in place. BBC News reports.
Kazakhstan’s president has stepped up his purge of Kazakhstan’s security forces, firing two more top security officials yesterday. The sacked officials were deputies to former intelligence chief Karim Massimov, who has been arrested on suspicion of treason. Olzhas Auyezov and Tamara Vaal report for Reuters.
China is willing to increase “law enforcement and security” cooperation with Kazakhstan and help oppose interference by “external forces.” China’s foreign minister made the comments in a call to Kazakhstan’s foreign minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi today, according to the Chinese foreign ministry. Reuters reports.
Allies of Kazakhstan’s ex-president Nursultan Nazarbayev stoked violence at protests last week in a bid to overthrow Tokayev, it has been claimed. “In an interview with Euronews, exiled opposition leader Akezhan Kazhegeldin claimed ‘extremists’ were paid by allies of Nazarbayev to turn the otherwise peaceful protests violent in Almaty,” Alice Tidey reports for EuroNews.
Formal talks between senior U.S. and Russian officials in Geneva have started today, with expectations of a breakthrough on Ukraine having been set low. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and his delegation will be meeting for face-to-face talks with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and her team. Senior diplomats and military officers from the U.S. and Russia held a working dinner in Geneva yesterday evening, before today’s formal negotiations. The negotiations will include discussion of Moscow’s demands, which were set out by Moscow last month in two draft treaties, one with the U.S. and one with NATO. Julian Borger reports for the Guardian.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that he does not expect to see any breakthroughs in the meetings with Russia this week. Blinken, speaking on CNN yesterday, reiterated that while the U.S. is prepared to listen to Moscow’s concerns, “if we’re actually going to make progress, we’re going to have to see de-escalation, Russia pulling back from the threat that it currently poses to Ukraine.” Jennifer Hansler reports for CNN.
The U.S. is prepared to enact sanctions on high-impact targets that would impose “severe and overwhelming costs on Russia’s economy” should Moscow invade Ukraine, officials in President Biden’s administration have said. “The sanctions could have major impacts on Russian consumers, industrial operations and employment, the sources said, and would in some instances put Russia in the same restrictive group of countries for export control purposes as Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria,” Natasha Bertrand reports for CNN.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian state media agency TASS yesterday that the U.S. requirement that Russia de-escalate is a “non-starter.” Ryabov added that Russia would also not discuss changing its position on Crimea, adding that the two sides have “dramatic, fundamental” differences on those positions. Matthew S. Schwartz reports for NPR.
Ryabkov warned that the U.S. and NATO “must show flexibility. If they are unable to do this, then they will face a worsening situation in their own security.” Speaking to Russian state news agency RIA, Ryabkov said Russia would not compromise on its demand for NATO to never make Ukraine a member, a pledge that the military alliance and the U.S. have already ruled out. Henry Foy and Ben Hall report for the Financial Times.
Kyiv has been sidelined from the peace negotiations over Ukraine, prompting it to pursue its own negotiating track with Moscow. Ukraine will be absent from two of the three negotiations sessions on the conflict scheduled for this week because it is not a member of NATO. Andrew E. Kramer reports for the New York Times.
Just Security has released a piece by Ambassador Daniel Fried titled ‘As Putin Aims to Re-Divide Europe, Lessons from the Past Can Guide a Response’.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
Lithuania has paid more than $110,000 to Abu Zubaydah as compensation for having allowed the CIA to hold him at a secret site outside Vilnius where he was tortured. The Guantánamo detainee was captured in Pakistan six months after 9/11, and has been detained by the U.S. for more than 20 years. The payment comes more than three years after the European Court of Human Rights ordered the Lithuanian government to pay Zubaydah for violating European laws banning the use of torture. Ed Pilkington reports for the Guardian.
President Biden has nominated Lt. Gen. Michael E. Kurilla to be the next head of Central Command, responsible for the “central” area of the globe, including Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Afghanistan, according to paperwork sent to the Senate. Kurilla, if confirmed, would replace Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., whose tenure is set to end this spring. Helene Cooper reports for the New York Times.
Australia has agreed to a $3.5 billion deal with the U.S. to acquire more than 120 tanks and other armored vehicles as part of a major upgrade to Australia’s military fleet. Australia’s Defense Minister Peter Dutton is expected to confirm the upgrade today, after the U.S. government approved the potential purchase last year. Anthony Galloway reports for The Sydney Morning Herald.
In the latest judgment in a series of cases against ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a military court has given her a four-year jail sentence for various offences, including charges of illegally importing and owning walkie-talkies, as well as breaking Covid-19 rules. Rebecca Ratcliffe reports for the Guardian.
A U.N. human rights investigator has urged Myanmar’s military to halt attacks on a Myanmar town and lift a blockade on those trying to flee. Since last week, the military has been launching air strikes and firing artillery on the town of Loikaw, the capital of eastern Myanmar’s Kayah State, forcing several thousand residents to flee, according to a resident and media reports. Reuters reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Aid workers have said that 56 people were killed and dozens more injured in an airstrike on a camp for displaced people in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Following the air strike, aid agencies have suspended operations in the region, the U.N.’s humanitarian agency Ocha has said. It is not clear who conducted the strike, however The Tigray People’s Liberation Front has accused Eritrea of launching attacks against the group’s fighters. BBC News reports.
The Taliban have arrested Faizullah Jalal, a professor of political science and law at Kabul University, weeks after he confronted a Taliban official in a live debate on Afghanistan’s largest television network. During the debate Jalal criticized the Taliban’s extremist rule and called the spokesperson for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, a “terrorist” and a “calf,” an Afghan insult for people of low intelligence. The Taliban chief spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid confirmed Jalal’s arrest on Twitter, calling the professor a “fanatic” who used social media to incite people. Sune Engel Rasmussen and Zamir Saar report for the Wall Street Journal.
China has named as the new chief of its army garrison in Hong Kong an internal security forces officer who helped lead Beijing’s crackdown in Xinjiang on predominantly Muslim and Turkic-speaking Uyghurs and other minorities. Major General Peng Jingtang, a deputy chief of staff of China’s People’s Armed Police, will head the People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong. Dan Strumpf and Wenxin Fan report for the Wall Street Journal.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet has said that Israel would not be bound by any nuclear deal with Iran and would continue to consider itself free to act “with no constraints” against Iran if necessary. “In regard to the nuclear talks in Vienna, we are definitely concerned … Israel is not a party to the agreements,” Bennett said in public remarks, in a briefing to an Israeli parliamentary committee. Reuters reports.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) has said that he will not cooperate with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. In a letter to the committee, Jordan called the committee’s ask for cooperation an “unprecedented and inappropriate demand,” and claimed that he has “no relevant information that would assist the Select Committee in advancing any legitimate legislative purpose.” A spokesperson for the committee said that the committee would respond to Jordan’s letter more in the “coming days” and would “consider appropriate next steps.” Nicholas Wu and Kyle Cheney report for POLITICO.
The Jan. 6 select committee has been ramping up its investigation into former President Trump’s efforts to pressure states to overturn the 2020 election results. The committee has gathered thousands of records from state election officials and interviewed a slate of witnesses, and is getting ready to take its work public. Documents obtained by POLITICO through open records requests “underscore the depth of Trump’s pressure campaign directed at the typically lower-level administrators of presidential balloting,” Nicholas Wu reports for POLITICO.
Jan. 6 select committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) has said that Former White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham told the committee about “a number of names that I had not heard before” and “identified some lines of inquiry that had never occurred to me.” Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Three men were sentenced to life in prison for fatally shooting Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man whom they had chased through their neighborhood, by a Georgia judge on Friday. Travis McMichael, the man who fatally shot Arbery, and his father were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, while a lesser sentence of life with the possibility of parole was issued to the third white man. Richard Fausset reports for the New York Times.
The National Counterintelligence and Security Center has warned the public about the risks of commercial surveillance tools that have been used to spy on journalists and political dissidents by infecting their phones with malware. Julian E. Barnes reports for the New York Times.
U.S. troops in Japan are to stay on base for two weeks, starting today, after Japanese officials linked them to a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections in communities in the surrounding areas. U.S. troop movement outside of military-related facilities and areas “will be restricted to essential activities only,” a joint statement from the Japanese government and U.S. forces in Japan said. Reuters reports.
Covid-19 has infected over 60.09 million people and has now killed more than 837,600 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 307.25 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.48 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.