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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.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – EASTERN UKRAINE
Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, two Russian-backed territories in eastern Ukraine. Following an impassioned speech on state television, Putin signed decrees recognizing the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, as well as “friendship and mutual assistance treaties.” Putin ended his speech by saying that if Kyiv does not cease military action, “the complete responsibility for the possibility of a continuation of bloodshed” will fall on Ukraine and President Volodymyr Zelensky. Anton Troianovski and Valerie Hopkins report for the New York Times.
Ukrainian officials said that Russian President Putin’s recognition of two territories in eastern Ukraine could facilitate a Russian invasion of the country by allowing separatist leaders to request military help from Russia. Valerie Hopkins and Andrew E. Kramer report for the New York Times.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees ordering military forces into Donetsk and Luhansk for “peacekeeping” purposes. Rachel Pannett, Robyn Dixon and Brittany Shammas for the Washington Post.
Reuters published excerpts from Russian President Putin’s speech recognizing the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – MILITARY
According to a letter sent to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United States has credible information demonstrating that Russia is compiling lists of Ukrainians “to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the allegations. John Hudson and Missy Ryan report for the Washington Post.
Joint Russian military exercises in Belarus were scheduled to end over the weekend, but Belarusian officials announced that they would continue. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said there had been dozens of ceasefire violations, and the “Ukrainian Joint Forces Command on Sunday claimed Russian-backed separatists launched ‘heavy armament fire’ against their own territory in an effort to ‘falsely accuse the armed forces of Ukraine and further escalate the situation.’” Kevin Liptak, Sam Fossum, Arlette Saenz, Tim Lister, Paul Murphy, Ivana Kottasová and Anna Chernova report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – DIPLOMACY
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced that President Biden would sign an executive order that will “prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic regions of Ukraine.” Psaki stated that these measures would supplement additional measures that would be taken in coordination with partners should Russia further invade Ukraine. Amanda Macias reports for CNBC.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognition Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic as independent. Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
Germany has halted the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project in response to Russia’s recognition of the two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. Sarah Marsh and Madeline Chambers report for Reuters.
Other European leaders also condemned the move, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Michel and von der Leyen promised sanctions in response but did not provide any additional details. Amanda Macias reports for CNBC. See further reporting from Lili Bayer for POLITICO.
Prior to Russian President Putin’s speech, Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba urged the European Union to move ahead with sanctions against the Kremlin immediately. Kuleba met with his European counterparts in Brussels on Monday, but E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell maintained that Europe would wait until the right moment to levy sanctions. The E.U. had threatened sanctions if Moscow recognized the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, which President Putin did in a speech on Monday. Emily Rauhala reports for the Washington Post.
China’s envoy to the United Nations (UN) yesterday stopped short of condemning Russia’s recognition of the two breakaway regions in Ukraine. In a brief statement at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun said Beijing encouraged “all parties” to exercise restraint and avoid “fueling tensions” in Ukraine, adding that all concerns should be treated on the “basis of equality.” Simone McCarthy reports for CNN.
Beijing has come out against a Russian invasion of Ukraine following days of closed door deliberations among top Chinese leaders, even as it refuses to condemn Moscow’s actions in the crisis. Statements from Chinese President Xi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi mark a shift in Beijing’s tone, likely reflecting a desire to maintain a relationship with the U.S. and the West. China is forced to walk this tightrope as a common interest in challenging the U.S. has also strengthened the China-Russia relationship in recent years. Lingling Wei reports for the Wall Street Journal.
U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would lead to a humanitarian crisis and cautioned that the Kremlin has continued to increase troop numbers and make other preparations for invasion. Nicola Slawson reports for the Guardian.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
An announcement that Russian troops would remain in Belarus following the conclusion of military drills prompted opposition leaders to argue that Russia had effectively undermined the independence and sovereignty of Belarus. Analysts reportedly said that this is an indication that “Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s foreign and military policies had been effectively captured by Russia.” Robyn Dixon and Mary Ilyushina report for the Washington Post.
A massive leak from an anonymous whistleblower revealed the “hidden wealth of clients involved in torture, drug trafficking, money laundering, corruption and other serious crimes” held by Credit Suisse, one of the world’s biggest private banks. David Pegg, Kalyeena Makortoff, Martin Chulov, Paul Lewis and Luke Harding report for the Guardian. See additional reporting from the BBC.
Colombia’s constitutional court decriminalized abortion in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. The majority-Catholic country is now the third largest country in Latin America to expand abortion rights in just over a year. Samantha Schmidt and Diana Durán report for the Washington Post.
Seven children in Niger were killed by a Nigerian army airstrike targeting “armed bandits,” according to a local governor and state media in Niger. Reporting from the BBC.
The controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam began generating electricity on Sunday, according to Ethiopian state television. Reporting from the BBC.
China denied allegations from Australia that a Chinese naval vessel shone a laser at an Australian surveillance aircraft off of Australia’s northern coast. Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the alleged action an “act of intimidation.” Reporting by Agence France-Presse.
A Turkish court extended the prison detention of 64-year-old philanthropist and activist Osman Kavala, who has been held without conviction since October 2017. Fulya Ozerkan reports for Agence France-Presse.
The occupation of Ottawa by demonstrators protesting Covid-19 restrictions ended on Sunday after Canadian police secured the downtown core of the city. This resolution followed two days of confrontation between police and protesters that ended in 191 arrests. Reuters reports via the Guardian.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
U.S. district judge Amit Mehta ruled that multiple lawsuits against former President Donald Trump for inciting violence on Jan. 6, 2021 can proceed and that the former president does not enjoy absolute immunity. Collectively, the lawsuits also name Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr., Congressman Mo Brooks, and the far-right extremist groups the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. Robert Legare reports for CBS News.
U.S. district judge Beryl Howell issued a lighter sentence than recommended by prosecutors for Robert Schornak, one of about 20 defendants who has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of entering and remaining in a restricted building in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021 attack. Schornak was sentenced to 30 days in jail and two months in home confinement. Judge Howell favorably cited cooperation with the House January 6 Select Committee during sentencing. Scott Macfarlane reports for CBS News.
Federal prosecutors argued that Adam Johnson — who gained internet fame for carrying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern during the Capitol siege — should be sentenced to 90 days in prison. Ryan J. Reilly reports for CBS News.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Jury deliberations are underway in the federal hate crimes trial of Travis McMichael, William “Roddie” Bryan and Gregory McMichael, three white men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery in 2020. Government prosecutors pointed to the defendants’ history of making racist remarks and argued that race was a motivating factor in Arbery’s killing. David Nakamura reports for the Washington Post.
Former White House national security officials report that they were stricken with a mysterious illness while on White House grounds. Similar “Havana Syndrome” incidents have been reported in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Scott Pelley reports for CBS 60 Minutes.
An alternative social media platform called Truth Social backed by former President Donald Trump became available for download in Apple’s App Store on Monday. Users who attempted to sign up for the platform were added to a waitlist that had already reached more than 150,000. Brian Fung reports for CNN.
Truth Social was number one in the App Store, even as technical errors and a partial outage prevented users from joining. Daniel Politi reports for Slate.
Long Island University announced the winners of the George Polk Awards in Journalism. The award for Military Reporting went to Azmat Khan, Dave Philipps, and Eric Schmitt of the New York Times for uncovering intelligence failures and civilian deaths associated with US air strikes in the Middle East, including the Aug. 29 strike in Kabul, Afghanistan that mistakenly killed ten civilians. The Washington Post won the National Reporting award for “The Attack,” documenting the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Maria Abi-Habib, Frances Robles and the staff of The New York Times won the Foreign Reporting award for their coverage of the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse. The full list of winners was released by Long Island University.
Australia has reopened its international border, opening travel to most foreigners for the first time in two years. Reporting from the BBC.
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.