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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.
Ukrainian defense officials confirmed today that multiple missile strikes had hit the capital, Kyiv. Loud explosions and gunfire were heard in Kyiv this morning as the Russian assault entered its second day. Two buildings were on fire in the south-east of the capital after a Russian plane was brought down and a border post in the south-east was struck by a missile, causing casualties. The targets and the damage inflicted remained unclear. The New York Times reporting.
Ukraine anticipates a Russian tank attack on Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million people, later today which could become the hardest day in the military offensive, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister said. Anton Herashchenko said the defenders of Kyiv were prepared with anti-tank missiles supplied by foreign allies. Ukraine’s deputy defense minister also agreed with the evaluation that Russian forces may enter areas just outside Kyiv today. The Guardian reporting.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said 137 Ukrainian citizens – both soldiers and civilians – have died and 316 had been wounded so far. In a video address late yesterday, he bemoaned that Ukraine had been “left alone to defend our state,” but said he would remain in the capital despite being “target number one” of the Russian advance. Emma Graham-Harrison, Luke Harding, Andrew Roth and Julian Borger report for the Guardian.
The U.K. estimates that Russia has lost 450 personnel since Moscow began the assault yesterday morning, according to British Defence Minister Ben Wallace. BBC News reporting.
The city of Sumy in northeastern Ukraine was seized yesterday by Russian forces. The regional governor, Dmytro Zhivitsky, said Ukrainian forces battled Russian troops in the city overnight, but other Russian convoys continued rolling west toward the Ukrainian capital. AP reporting.
By nightfall, Russian forces captured the now-defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the scene of the 1986 disaster. “The Chernobyl zone — the exclusion zone — and all installations of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant have been taken under control of Russian armed groups,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said in a televised statement, adding that no casualties had yet been confirmed there. William Branigin, David L. Stern and Claire Parker report for the Washington Post.
Ukraine’s nuclear agency said it was recording raised radiation levels at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after Russian troops took control of the area. Experts said the change was a result of the movement of heavy military equipment in the area lifting radioactive dust into the air. “Radiation starts to increase. It is not critical for Kyiv for the time being, but we are monitoring,” the interior ministry said. Reuters reporting.
Russian President Vladimir Putin defended his move, saying there was no other way to defend Russia. In a Kremlin meeting yesterday with Russian business leaders, the president claimed that he was “forced” to order military action in Ukraine, calling the invasion a “forced measure” due to Western “intransigence” over security concerns. “I was surprised that didn’t move a millimeter on any issue,” Putin said. “They have left us no chance to act differently.” Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov today dismissed Ukraine’s offer to negotiate. He said at a news conference in Moscow that Zelenskiy was “lying” in saying he was ready to discuss a possible neutrality pledge, Russian independent news agency Interfax reported. Lavrov stated that Russia wants the Ukrainian people to be independent. The Guardian reporting.
The U.S. believes Russia’s attack is designed to take key population centers and decapitate Ukraine’s democratically-elected, pro-Western government, the Pentagon said yesterday, in a grim evaluation of the first stages of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. A senior Defense Department official said that three lines of Russian soldiers and military forces were advancing swiftly toward Ukrainian cities, with two of them headed toward Kyiv, the capital, and the government of Zelenskiy. Helene Cooper reports for the New York Times.
The United Nations refugee company says an estimated 100,000 Ukrainians have fled their homes and are uprooted in the country after Russia’s invasion. People in Kyiv and elsewhere are trying to evacuate, and several thousand Ukrainians have crossed into neighboring countries, mainly Moldova and Romania, the U.N. refugee agency said yesterday. Reuters reporting.
Russian police detained nearly 1,400 people at anti-war protests that took place in cities across Russia yesterday after Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine, the OVD-Info protest monitor said. “More than 1,391 people have already been detained in 51 cities,” OVD-Info stated yesterday, which tracks arrests at opposition rallies. Al Jazeera reporting.
Putin asserts threats from Ukraine and NATO to justify his full invasion of Ukraine. However, Maria Popova and Oxana Shevel explain in detail why those are smoke screens for his real intent and obsession in an analysis for Just Security.
A map tracking the Russian invasion of Ukraine is provided by the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
President Joe Biden yesterday issued a new round of economic sanctions targeting four Russian banks, oligarchs and high-tech sectors. In a White House address yesterday afternoon, Biden said Russia’s aggression “cannot go unanswered” and that “Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war, and now he and his country will bear the consequences.” Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs report for the New York Times.
Biden did not, however, call for Russia to be shut out of the Swift banking system, and he is not issuing direct sanctions on Putin, as some lawmakers have urged. Alexander Ward, Betsy Woodruff Swan and Ben Lefebvre report for POLITICO.
Biden repeated that U.S. troops will not be deployed to Ukraine, but reiterated that he has sent “thousands of additional forces to Germany and Poland” to protect NATO’s eastern flank. “The United States will defend every inch of NATO territory with the full force of American power,” Biden said in his White House address. “The good news is: NATO is more united and determined than ever.” The 7,000 additional troops are expected to depart in the coming days, and will bring the number of U.S. forces recently deployed to Europe in response to Russia’s aggressive moves against Ukraine to about 14,000. Jeremy Herb, Barbara Starr and Ellie Kaufman report for CNN.
Biden will meet with fellow NATO Heads of State and Government in a virtual summit today to discuss the security situation in and around Ukraine. That session will take place at 9 a.m. CNN reporting.
The United States is also positioning two fighter jets each in Estonia, Lithuania and Romania to bolster NATO’s defense capabilities as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine begins, the Air Force said in a statement. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated lawmakers wish to present Ukraine with $600m for “deadly protection weapons” to battle Russia’s unfolding assault. “What we’re doing with Ukraine is ensuring that now we have humanitarian help to assist the individuals; that now we have deadly protection weapons going into Ukraine to the tune of $600 million for them to combat their very own combat,” Pelosi stated, speaking with reporters in San Francisco. Reuters reporting.
Inside the Biden administration, some officials are raising concerns about escalation as a policy matter and potential presidential war powers authority. A number of officials worry that arming Ukrainian resistance could make the U.S. a legal co-combatant to a wider war with Russia, Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer write for Foreign Policy. At present it is unclear what support would raise such concerns.
U.S. Army soldiers temporarily stationed along NATO’s eastern flank are preparing to move closer to Poland’s border with Ukraine to help process people fleeing the country, a military official told The Hill. The official said that temporary safe havens have been set up in Poland and Romania to help process those evacuees and to provide a temporary place to stay and receive food and basic necessities until they can move to other locations. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
The U.S. is expelling the second most senior diplomat at the Russian embassy in Washington in retaliation to the expulsion of the second ranking U.S. diplomat in Moscow earlier this year, according to the State Department. “We can confirm that the United States informed the Russian Embassy that we are expelling its Minister Counselor,” a State Department spokesperson said, noting that the deputy chief of mission at the Russian Embassy had “previously departed as part of a normal rotation,” so the Minister Counselor “is the next most senior official at the Russian Embassy.” Kylie Atwood and Jennifer Hansler report for CNN.
The White House said yesterday a media report suggesting that Biden was presented with options to conduct cyberattacks to disrupt Russia’s ability to sustain its military operations in Ukraine, was “off base.” NBC News had reported that final decisions had not been made, that its sources said that the kind of cyber attack could include interfering with Russian internet connectivity, closing off electricity and disrupting railroad switches to hinder Moscow’s ability to resupply forces. Monique Beals reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
NATO declared yesterday that it was dispatching reinforcements to its eastern flank, joining some 7,000 U.S. soldiers the Pentagon has already sent to Eastern Europe and the Baltics. “We are deploying additional defensive land and air forces to the eastern part of the alliance, as well as additional maritime assets,” NATO said in a statement. “We have increased the readiness of our forces to respond to all contingencies.” Lara Jakes, Eric Schmitt and Edward Wong report for the New York Times.
The United Nations Security Council is likely to vote today on a draft resolution that would condemn Russia for invading Ukraine and require Moscow to immediately and unconditionally withdraw, a senior U.S. administration official said. William Mauldin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan today expressed his concern over the Russian assault on Ukraine and said his court may look into possible war crimes in the country. Reuters reporting.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had earlier indicated that Russian President Vladimir Putin could face war crimes charges over the invasion of Ukraine. He told Members of Parliament “anyone who sends a Russian into battle to kill innocent Ukrainians” could be brought to court. The prime minister added the United Kingdom is working with allies to establish a “particular international war crimes tribunal for those involved in war crimes in the Ukraine theatre”. The Guardian reporting.
E.U. leaders supported an extensive package of sanctions targeting Russia last night following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, as the bloc faces the largest security threat in Europe since the second world war. The proposals would freeze some transactions with a wide range of Russian banks, stop a number of state-owned firms from launching new listings on stock exchanges in the bloc, and halt Russian nationals from making large deposits in E.U. banks. The measures would also prohibit sales of aircraft and jet parts to Russia, block the sale of equipment needed to upgrade oil refineries and suspend visa-free travel for Russian diplomatic passports holders. Sam Fleming, Eleni Varvitsioti, Valentina Pop and Henry Foy report for the Financial Times.
France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire has said excluding Russia from the Swift international payments system was “a very last resort.” In advance of a meeting of eurozone finance ministers, Le Maire said: “This is the very last resort, Swift, but this is one of the options that remains on the table.” Lithuania’s prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė has said the discussion about shutting out Russia from Swift is not closed: “we know who disagrees and we continue to negotiate with them.” The debate carries on, after Ukraine’s government said western allies would have “blood on their hands” if they did not ban Russia from Swift. The Guardian reporting.
Britain unveiled a package of “severe” sanctions against Russia yesterday, including freezing assets of all major Russian banks, limiting cash held by Russian nationals in U.K. bank accounts, and sanctioning more than 100 individuals and entities. High-tech exports to Russia will be limited and Aeroflot will be barred from U.K. airspace. George Parker, Laura Hughes and Jim Pickard report for the Financial Times.
Facebook is increasing efforts to monitor posts and provide users with an additional security feature in response to the military conflict in Ukraine, the firm announced yesterday. The social media giant launched a Special Operations Center to respond in “real time” that is stuffed by experts, including native speakers, to monitor and “act as fast as possible,” Facebook head of security Nathaniel Gleicher stated in a post on Twitter. The platform also introduced a new feature in Ukraine that allows users to lock their profile to provide “an extra layer of privacy and security,” he said. Rebecca Klar reports for The Hill.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Three former Minneapolis police officers were found guilty yesterday of violating the civil rights of George Floyd by failing to intervene or provide medical care as their senior officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the Black man’s neck for over nine minutes. During the month-long trial, prosecutors had argued that former officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao knew Floyd was in medical danger beneath Chauvin’s knee but put their “discomfort in questioning a colleague” above their sworn obligation to save a life. The jury deemed that the acts of all three men caused Floyd’s death, in a case that is likely to intensify scrutiny over how officers are trained to intervene with rogue colleagues. Holly Bailey reports for the Washington Post.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee today expanded its probe into former President Trump’s White House records, asking for new information from the National Archives about the classified materials Trump took to his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida after leaving office – in addition to those records Trump is alleged to have torn up in the White House. In a new letter to National Archivist David Ferriero, committee chairperson Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) requested a “detailed” inventory of the 15 boxes of White House records the National Archives recovered from Mar-a-Lago, as well as “all presidential records” that the agency learned Trump had “torn up, destroyed, mutilated, or attempted to tear up, destroy, or mutilate” while in office. Benjamin Siegel and Rachel Scott report for ABC News.
President Joe Biden has decided on his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a person familiar with the process. The White House wants to announce the pick today, but may hold off given the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Biden has vowed to name the first Black woman to the high court and has interviewed Ketanji Brown Jackson, who serves on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; J. Michelle Childs, a federal judge in South Carolina backed strongly by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn; and Leandra Kruger, who sits on the California Supreme Court, among others. Punchbowl News reporting.
The Jan. 6 House select committee’s report on the Capitol attack will be published as a book once it is finished. Celadon Books, a division of Macmillan Publishing, announced yesterday that it is working with The New Yorker to publish “The January 6th Report.” The book will contain the full text of the House committee’s report, in addition to an introduction penned by David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker and a Pulitzer Prize winner. It will be available as a paperback and an e-book. Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to significantly loosen its mask-wearing guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, allowing most people to go without them in public indoor spaces, according to two people familiar with the matter. The new policy is expected to be announced today. AP reporting.
A group of Air Force officers is suing the service in an Ohio federal court after being refused religious exemptions to the covid-19 vaccine mandate. The lawsuit, which names Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall as a defendant, claims that the service employs a double standard when authorizing exemption requests that favors medical and administrative exemptions. The plaintiffs are asking the court to declare the mandate unconstitutional, and stop the Air Force from taking “enforcement/punitive action” against them while the case is ongoing. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
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.